Sometimes, The Greatest Gift is a Kick in the Pants

Chicken fried steak covered with gravy, corn (...
I don't care what you say. Chicken fried steaks consist of atomic creme-de-la-creme. Image via Wikipedia

In the last few years, I’ve noticed a sharp increase in the number of folks who are incapable of accepting direct and candid ideas in opposition to their established point of view. People are incapable of accepting a kick in the ass when it is deserved and needed.

As a supervisor at a military public defender shop, my personality was polarizing. Some folks appreciated the fact that I was blunt. Others, not so much. I am this way because of the appreciation I have for the folks who showed me the same courtesy. I don’t remember the Mr. Nice bosses I’ve had. They were flaccid and ineffectual, and nothing remarkable came from their safe leadership. I do remember the ones who put a boot in my ass on occasion.

I needed it. I admit. Like most humans, I have a predisposition to being a lazy procrastinator. It comes from the fact that god put all the high-performing atoms into waterfalls, beautiful mountains, and chicken fried steak. All the underperforming and hiccuping atoms were relegated to human purgatory. It’s his way of punishing them for too much hedonistic whoopee when the Earth cooled.

If you were offended by my “human purgatory” comment, you may want to stop reading now. This post isn’t for you. We often consider ourselves, as humans, to be residents on the shores of Lake Wobegon–perfect and equally exceptional. We are not. Consider what we do to beautiful, tasty food when we eat it. When we are done, it comes out a pungent, disgusting mess. We have that effect on most of what we consume–literally and figuratively.

But I digress…

The problem now is that nobody thinks they are worthy from the boot-to-derriere treatment. Everyone began as a child, and lately all children are considered special. Then, growing up, the same children learned that they are the future and that they are all winners. Finally, as adults, they retreated into their Facebook and Twitter caves where admission was only granted to those who agreed to become members of their personal cheer squad.

They are never to blame. It’s always that jerk who supervises them. When he tells them they aren’t performing, they determine that his standards are too high, or he is part of a larger conspiracy against them. When they face repercussions for repeated absences, the big bossman lacks sensitivity to the things that are truly important in life.

Want to know what humans desire most in life? It’s not money, or a big house, or a BMW, or a PlayStation, or that Jenn-Air range, or the Caribbean cruise, or a piece of ass from the cute waitress at the diner. It’s none of those. What is it then, you ask?

Exceptions–tailored to fit only them.

They want an exception from succeeding through hard work. They want an exception from being at the job when everyone else schleps their oversized ass through the door. They want mulligan after mulligan–even though their peers aren’t entitled. They want, most of all, an exception from devoted accountability.

We must learn to appreciate those who are accountable for us–especially when they are openly and harshly so. They do it because, regardless of our vocation, setting high standards is the right thing to do. To do otherwise is an injustice to any consumer that relies upon our product. To do otherwise allows our underperforming atoms to continue disappointing the god of physics.

For those of us who choose to depart from the world of oversight, the seeking of an occasional kick in the pants must come from within. It hurts to read about somebody who is doing something for a client that we should do, but aren’t doing. We feel like crap (or, we should). We must force ourselves to hear about people who do this job better than us, and we must hear the voices of those who demand accountability among our profession–regardless of the hit to our emotions or ego.

When you get pissed off because of criticism, get pissed off at yourself, not at the person delivering it. Get pissed off because of the time wasted on inconsequential bullshit when it could have been used on people paying you to save their life. Get pissed off when you realize that a bit more legal research could have suppressed that confession. Get pissed off when you fail to achieve the standards that people need you to achieve. You know you’re wrong. We are all wrong at some point. The question is, are you capable of catching yourself being wrong or accepting others calling you out for it?

Why the rant? Here lately, all of my new clients want my help to correct previous legal actions. They need the help because their previous attorney at court-martial or administrative proceeding screwed them. Rather than taking the harder steps, the lawyer sought the easier slide. Battles that should have been fought were bargained. In some cases, they were told that fighting would only delay the inevitable. It makes me sick.

If you don’t want to do the job, get out. Didn’t do well in law school? Don’t expect firms to suffer your excuses. Don’t like the job you are in? Quit. Want a better work/life balance? Then give up the clients and take a cut in pay. Your clients don’t pay you to ferry the kids to Camp Snoopy at Worlds of Fun. They pay you to work your ass off for them. If that gets in the way of being a soccer coach, then don’t take the case. Make a choice. Either way, there are negative consequences. If you want to get rich AND be a full time parent, pump-out octuplets and call Discovery Channel.

A few weeks ago, Dan Hull told me, in part, “You’re wasting your life.” It made me think. It made me work harder. It made me recommit to the things that are really important. Had I condemned him for the comment, its intent and purpose would have been wasted.

Guess what. You’re probably wasting your life, too. Get off your ass and try to be exceptional. You’ll probably fail, but it’s not about where we are trying to get. It’s about how we try to get there.

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3 thoughts on “Sometimes, The Greatest Gift is a Kick in the Pants

  1. You, sir, are a Big Person. Very well done–and Brave. No need for a Steak Knife Life. It’s a choice.

    Baldwin’s GGR cameo is great. So is Alec Baldwin. That’s the real oldest Baldwin brother, Jack. And Glengarry Glen Ross won David Mamet a Pulitzer.

  2. I first saw Glengarry GlenRoss on opening night in a cinema somewhere on the outskirts of Washington, DC prior to the 1992 Marine Corps Marathon. The next day, I thought about it for 26.2 miles.

    I hope to someday see the play. Although, my understanding is that the Baldwin speech is not part of the original script. Mamet wrote it specifically for Alec in the movie.

    For those folks who have never seen it, rent or buy the movie immediately. You are already negligent–especially if you are a lawyer.

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