Helping Hands

helping_hands“Sir, have you ever noticed the tendency of people to immediately find fault with ideas you might have rather than offering support? ” I began our weekly conversation.

“Watson, that is a tiresome point. Surely you have a more worthy complaint? ” The Effective Detective answered with what sounded like a bit more irritation in his voice than usual.

“Perhaps I am thinking more of the roadblocks people set up for you once you start down the path, especially when you ask for assistance,” I replied.

“Ah, now there are two sides of the same coin. You know of course of the Maryland Crab Barrel Principle, Watson? ” The Detective responded sounding more animated by the minute.

“Of course, sir, that the other crabs in a barrel will pull down one who is starting to climb above the others,” I answered.

“Precisely Watson, whether it is to drag them back down to their level or to try to climb over them after they have started the job, the effect is the same, the crab trying to escape is brought down. The roadblock problem you speak of is similar. You will hear people are busy or offer the same type of discouragement that was as offered before. Two sides of the same coin,” The Detective paused looking at me expectantly.

“Yes sir, but I was hoping for an answer to the problem rather than an explanation! ” I exclaimed, perhaps a bit more sarcastically than I intended.

If the Detective was perturbed by my outburst, he did not show it. Rather he gave me that half-smile that I knew meant I had fallen into one of his traps, and began quietly, “Just so Watson. For the first, I have no solution other than the obvious: ignore them. You will rarely find support from fearful people who think it best to bring you down rather than try to better themselves. Better to keep your mouth shut, if you wish to continue to associate with such people – or you have no choice, as with family, or abandon them for more like-minded acquaintances.

“But for the second there are multiple choices that one can proceed with; for brevity I will discuss only two. The first and most obvious is also the most painful. Do not ask for assistance, or ask for only the most minimal amount. This goes against all time management teachings and restricts the amount of work you can accomplish, but it is very controllable and the only person you can disappoint is yourself,” The Detective paused, allowing me to interject.

“That seems a stupid way to work!” I exclaimed.

“I did not indicate the wisdom or stupidity of such a choice, Watson, merely that it exists, and some would say there is wisdom in learning some of the pitfalls and choices to a path before asking others to join. However there is another way. That is to lay every thing out in excruciating detail, leave nothing to chance. Detail the way. Then, if someone objects, you can be fairly certain they are merely trying to pull the lead crab down, no matter what their reasoning is. At that point you can move away from them and do that part yourself or find another.” The Detective finished.

That seems to be putting the burden on yourself no matter which path you choose,” I said, feeling a little put off.

“Who is benefitting from the effort after all is said and done, Watson? ”

“Ah, well-played sir, ” I answered knowing the answer.

“Let us move on Watson ” The Detective smiled, ending today’s discussion.

The Mystery of the Disturbing Discussion

It had been a bothersome day for me. I had made the mistake of reviewing some commentary that had disturbed me. It wasn’t the subject matter per se, and not really the opinion of the author’s, since everyone is entitled to that, but rather something about  the tone of the discussions. I decided to see what The Effective Detective thought about it, and perhaps soothe the sense of discontent I was feeling.

“Good day, Watson,” the Detective cheerily greeted me, “ah, but from your look I would say that it is not such a good day for you.”

“Quite observant, sir,” I replied.

“Well, that is part of my job now isn’t it,” he laughed. “Have a seat and let us discuss what is causing your long face.”

“I was reviewing a discussion online…” I started.

“Political, religious, or business?” The Detective interjected. “Not that it actually matters, I suspect that it wasn’t the content that was bothering you, but rather something about the progression of the discussion,” he finished.

“Good lord man, where you looking over my shoulder without me noticing you there?” I asked, shocked that he seemingly read my mind.

“Elementary, my dear Watson,” The Detective replied with that slight grin of his. “There could only be two things that would cause you to look so down in the dumps, one: that you whole heartedly disagreed with the thoughts being bandied about and yet you refrained from joining in the discussion, resulting in frustration, or two: that there was something about how one or more participants in the discussion were acting, and you became distraught because you could not figure out just what that something was. Since you looked more thoughtful than angry, I easily deduced that it must be the latter. Pray enlighten me.”

“Spot on as always sir,” I answered after a slight pause. The Detective gave a slight bow. “The person who had started the discussion confused me. He reacted to every objection to or observation about his points not with an attempt to consider, or even understand it, but rather to either belittle, or turn it to his point of view in some way. He seemed to be incapable of saying, ‘Good point! I shall consider that.’ ”

“I have seen that attitude too often myself Watson,” sighed The Detective. “It has brought down many a good business person, I’m afraid. It is not so much that they are convinced they are right, but rather fear that someone might think less of their expertise or decision making if they stray from their stated beliefs. It has caused business people to pursue product lines or services for which there is no market because they believe there has to be, when just a minor change in their direction towards an existing market could lead to success. They are afraid to admit that they don’t know everything or that they might be mistaken, when the fact is we must always be willing to learn and admit mistakes or lack of knowledge.”

“Even you sir?” I teased.

“Especially me, Watson, especially me.”