How to be completely harmless

Quick…think of something completely harmless.  A kitten?  A bowl of warm milk?  You?

We all like to think that we’d kick some serious ass when the time comes.  Guys of all ages imagine awesome scenarios where they spot some injustice going down and they bust out the karate they never knew they had.  The bad guy goes down in a heap and the hero utters a line so devastatingly bad-ass, time itself stops to congratulate him.

The reality is, most of us will never come close to pulling a Batman on a jewel thief.  Most of your war stories will be about how Johnson stole your idea during the last status meeting.  And you’ll either just tell your spouse or the other whiner in the lunchroom.

batman - credit warner brothers
Pictured: Not you in a boardroom

Almost all people I’ve met are harmless.  Except my cousin, who happens to be an ex-Airborne Ranger.  He terrifies me.

Most people are harmless because although they’re talented and intelligent, they’re watered down.  They express views that take no real sides.  They aim to please all, but end up pleasing nobody.  There’s a reason Ann Coulter or Bill Maher make millions of dollars.  They chose a side and exaggerate their support to the point of buffoonery.  Do they really believe the stuff they spew?  Who cares?  As long as enough people tune in, cheques continue to be cashed.

Here are 4 ways to guarantee a career of complete mediocrity and obscurity. Complete harmlessness and threat to no-one.

1.  Always convincing yourself that others will hate your idea. You’re sitting in a meeting.  You have something to say. You’ve been thinking about how to say it.  The guy that just spoke took an opposing view.  He’s eloquent and assertive.  Now you tell yourself that your idea is stupid and you don’t pipe up when you get a chance.  Or you propose an idea and somebody lobs some softball criticism.  You immediately give up trying to push it through.   Worst, you tell yourself you were stupid to have even considered it.

The next time you have something to say in a meeting and are not sure whether to propose it, remember this quote:

“Everything that can be invented has been invented.” – Charles H Duell, Commissioner US Patent Office, 1899.

2.  Saying ‘Yes’ to everybody.  This is a guaranteed path to supersuckdom.  Real focus is saying ‘No’ to people, events and things that don’t contribute to whatever target you’ve set.  Saying ‘Yes’ to everybody’s request means saying ‘Later’ to your own.  This means you get pulled into the orbit of other people’s gravity.  Instead of pulling resources to your own cause, you become the resource for others even if they mean well.  The only way to prevent this is to know what you really want so you know what to say “Yes’ to.

3.  If you’re everybody’s friend, you’re nobody’s friend.  It’s impossible to be in agreement with every single person you meet or work with. Statistics alone ensures you will meet someone who will totally hate your guts.  Is there somebody out there who hates you?  Good, you took a stance at least once in your life.  Too many people are friendly with everybody, just in case…

4.  Afraid of being bold.  You know that no-talent kid who stole your promotion just because he was better able to articulate his value, present his ideas and really understood his bosses and customers?  That’s talent.  I remember when I first joined LG Electronics, I was given a few folks to manage.  Some were upset that some kid who didn’t know how to do the practical work was managing them.  My response to them:  “If I could do your job, you wouldn’t have a job”.

Be bold.  Back it up.  Most of the time you don’t say things because you think, assume and presume that others will find it offensive or stupid.

But what if they were waiting (hoping) you would speak up?

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