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A BriefConsultant walks into a bar. That’s a premise. What’s the punchline?

It’s one thing to pose a premise and quite another to bring down the house with a punchy punchline. Too late, once I’ve posed the premise, to change it to match the punch line. Punchline follows premise, so perhaps I’d better write the punchline first.

My favorite punchline: I would have but I needed the wool. What premise works with that?

A Client walks into a bar, announcing that he’s thought he was a sheep for thirty years. “Why didn’t you mention this before?” the bartender asks.

”I would have, but the consultant I hired to help needed the wool.” (Insert rim shot here.)

I’m working on a proposal, the formal one now- not the posthumous one I submitted last week, and I’m surprised by the give and take, push and pull it’s incited in me. Like framing any project, until I sit down and try to nail down what I’m really, physically intending to do, I have nothing but a Bright Idea. Not to discount the motive power of any Bright Idea, but not one of them qualifies as a project. In order to wear the big boy project pants, a Bright Idea needs several judicious injections of disappointment, some backing into unseen cognitive corners, and quite a bit of acceptance that this baby has its ugly sides. No project ever seems quite as bright and shiny as that originating Bright Idea. Time to grow up.

But how to grow up without losing that fire? That’s the question that questioning the premise always invokes. I want this damned effort to be fun, not drudgery. Light heart, heavy insights, laughing at least half the way through. Not, though, apparently, through the premising.

I’m reminded of the many injunctions I’ve delivered, for people to choose a juicy purpose rather than a simply SMART one. Munching on my own dog food now, I’m reminded just how stultifying such advice can be. Sure, we’d all choose delight over obligation, but there could be no shortcut around the disappointment. I can delight, I suppose, in the disappointment, he said dejectedly. These are mere tiny injections, after all, with no requirement to surrender hopefulness to achieve do-ability. If I can’t Just Do It, I can choose to do it well.

Turning up the television doesn’t help. Thoughtful conversations, however, can help. I must be a master at boxing myself in. Just like you. Just like everyone. Tied in nots.

No not ever submitted to being told what not to do. Nots respond to encouraging words, reassurances. Nots never know why they came about, and searching for cause has no effect on them. The future holds the unbinding string, but nobody can see there. Fortunately, we can imagine.

Nots respond well to imaginals, posed possibilities. Careful not to propose something too awfully bright and shiny, or the not will tighten its grip. The well-formed imaginal balances alluring with believable. Nobody needs another fairy tale.

I never expect another dog food lunch when I too-confidently propose a delivery date. I know I work best under draconian deadlines, and I willingly tighten the screws in warm anticipation of freeing myself to the other side of done. Otherwise, the ordeal might drag on forever. I waste most of the tight time wandering lost in a wilderness of my own making, hopeful then desperate in turn. I’ve been lost longer than I’ve ever been found. You’d think I’d be used to it now.

©2013 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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