Personal Reflection: I really don’t want to be — and couldn’t be — an Exec because I don’t care about rank

In his book Travels, Michael Crichton mentions that an Exec might not want to spend too much time in the hospital partially because they want to protect their rank at their firm.  That was an astute observation, because to someone who values promotions and climbing up the Corporate Ladder protecting rank is very important.  It is The Call of the Wild out there in Fortune 500 Corporate America, and if a fellow Exec smells blood it can be trouble… Which means that although I’ve always been a top sales person on my teams, and I’ve always had a pretty good instinct for strategy and have been successful at leading teams, I will likely never be a tenured Sales VP at a big firm.  Why?

I’ve never cared about title or rank.  When I was a VP, I never mentioned my title. WHen I was Managing DIrector, I privately winced when my team introduced me as “my managing director.”  Why?  It is hard to take myself or life that seriously, and I actually don’t respect people who do.  But the thing about Corporate America is, most Execs *do* care about title.  Jack Welch didn’t want to be *Vice* Chair — he wanted to be Chair.  He obsessed about it to the point I get the impression from his book that it engulfed most of his time and energy.  So then once he got it, he was obsessed about keeping it.

So although I myself don’t take things seriously like that, the people making the decisions do, often to the point it is more important than the actual work.  I was honestly raised to believe that if you work hard, and you do what your boss tells you to do, and you always try to do the right things, that people will notice and you will get promoted.  That is total bullshit.  It happens some times, but it is the exception and not the rule. Getting  promoted means playing the politics, which in high school is equivalent to being elected Homecoming King/Queen – sometimes it is the best student or the best person, but often it is not — but then keeping that homecoming title every year and fending off other people who want it. I had zero interest in any of that stuff growing up, and I don’t now.  Life is too short, and none of this will matter in 100 years.  

Personal Reflection: I really don’t want to be — and couldn’t be — an Exec because I don’t care about rank

Edinburgh (Scotland) Ghost Tour

We were riding on the shuttle boat with the guest lecturer when someone asked her what we she recommended seeing this day.  She said the ghost tour, since so many thousands and thousands of people had died by the plague and there were so many stories McKenzie’s tomb (Black Mausoleum).  So the first thing we did was sign up for a ghost tour that had been recommended to us.

The tour started out with a stroll through Old Town Edinburgh, where we heard some ghastly tales at various locations.  We learned that next to the old Parliament building right in old town there had been a graveyard, but it was relocated for a small parking lot, with one exception: John Knox, who had hated women and whose remains and small tombstone were left behind.

We learned that tortuer in Scotlannd was not only legal for longer than most other local companies, but encouraged and welcomed, and that 90,000 people died of the plague in Edinburgh.  That it was legal to keep one “lunatic” chained in your basement following a violent episode where a kitchen boy was murdered by a lunatic; that a clan of cannibals had lived just beyond Edinburgh and feasted on hapless travelers, and that witch hunting was a common (and largely unmonitoried) activity.  All this leads to misery and death.

We were led into the cellars of the city, which were created — and forgotten about — over the centuries due to building upward and the fates of time.  We were taken into a cellar beneath the city streets and accessed only by a former recording studio that had been built above the forgotten tomes and discovered only by accident.  In the early 19th centry, a canal was built through Edinburgh, which attracted many lowly-paid Irish immigrants, plus there was a lot of poverty in The Old Town after the wealthier classes were relocated to New Town.  The result was there were many impovershed and homeless people who took to living in the city’s understreets, leading to disease and dens of vice, which created a spooky underworld setting.

There were two interesting stories we found in the vaults: one is of a female ghost that is occassionally scene by the tours.  She often carries the scent of singed hair, and one time a guest who was not aware of the legend asked how much they paid the woman actress to lurk in the corner – except there was not an actress. 

But the most terrifying — and disturbing — room on our tour was the final cellar, where they’d once tortured and killed a family of immigrants accused of witchcraft.  In this room, they’d systematically tortured and killed a woman, her husband, their young son and their young daughter who did not speak the same language so could not even understand the questions their inquisitors asked them. The room has had several reports of ghosts, and my wife and daughter both felt an overwhelming flee instinct in that room, even before hearing the story.  For me, I continue to have goosebumps about that story, not over the rumored ghosts, but for that poor youjng family who were brutally murdered by unsupervised zealots.  Even though centuries have passed, I can still see their despair and suffering by the hands of brutes and honestly it breaks my heart.  I will never forget that story.

Finally, we had heard about the Black Mausoleum, but no mention was made of it by anyone and heard nthing of it in the actual city, so I conducted some research on it. According to an article in the Edinburgh news, the Black Mausoleum was uneventful until nearly 20 years ago, when a homeless man seeking shelter inadvertantly desecreated McKenzie’s grave as well as the bones of some plague victimes.  ALmost immediately, there were reports of poltergeists, not just in that particular tomb, but in the entire graveyard plus neighboring street.  There were reports of faintings, unseen fores pounding on people, and even the work of an exorcist a few years later had no effect.  After more than 500 separate complaints, the city closed and locked the grave yard, and no one is allowed in anymore.  

The ghosts are scary.  But honestly more scary than ghosts are actual human beings, and the few crazy human beings in authority who are allowed to torture and kill countless people.  Where do these people come from?  ANd how is it a few people can terrorize an entire population?  Humans and human nature is far scarier than supposed ghosts…


Edinburgh (Scotland) Ghost Tour

The human being’s penchant to ignore (literal) warning signs…

I am reading Bill Bryson’s book and he mentions in 1992 a young man ignored posted warnings signs and swam in jellyfish-infested waters, and was stung by lethal jellyfish.  He was still screaming in pain even after heavily doped with morphine nad passing out. 

We all do it sometimes.  We cross the street when the light is red.  We walk across the grass when a sign states, “Stay off the grass.”  We eat food with fructose despite the warnings not to eat fructose.  We smoke although the packages warns about the dangers of smoking.  In other words, we disregard — literally — warning signs.

Why is it we ignore signs sometimes?  Both benign signs and the “danger” signs.  What in the human brain makes us ignore the signs at different (individualized) levels of comfort?  

Would we be less likely to ignore signs if the signs also said, “This means you?” My favorite weather forecast was six years ago in The Sierra Nevadas, which forecasted heavy snow and the official National Weather Service forecast added, “There may be a loss of life if travelers drive or venture out into the snow.”  If signs spelled out in clear letters the potential consequences — and examples of when those consequences happened — would people still ignroe them?  Don’t know, but somehow I wouldn’t be surprised if still quite a few people ignored them.  I’ve love to see every warning sign add the words, “This means you” at the bottom 🙂  

PS I am pretty good about not jaywalking — unless there are extreme extenuating circumstances, I don’t do it.  Partially because I worry about cars I might not see, or cars that might turn into me unexpectedly, but partly too because I feel exposed and naked when crossing against a “don’t walk” sign.  Just like I would never cheat on my wife even if she would never find out, I don’t like to cross against red lights even when no one is around.  🙂  

The human being’s penchant to ignore (literal) warning signs…

Are there any joys greater than Daylight Savings Time?

Are there any joys greater in life than Daylight savings time?  

Oh, thank goodness for our ancient fearless leaders who implemented it, and for our wise leaders today who year after year keep it in place despite all the evidence demonstrating how bad it is for our health and productivity with very little to gain.  Daylight Savings Time is a wonderful example of how human beings will take something — time — that worked all on its own for untold billions of years and tinker with it, to the detriment of the common/powerless person.  Awesome!  Wonderful! Spectacular!

Why is is still here?  Why doesn’t it go away?  

My guess is special interests combined with inertia. But I do hope there is a special place in Congressperson heck for those not doing anything to get rid of it.  I will say a special prayer for all of them tomorrow when my alarm goes off at 4 AM body time.  

Are there any joys greater than Daylight Savings Time?