Reticence

reticence
"Anyone not reticent about starting a new adventure
will end up with a lot more adventure than they bargained for."

I become reticent when facing a new challenge. I understand that this culture better appreciates those who at least appear decisive, but I have never been one of those hard charging full-speed-ahead kinds of people. Even hastening slowly seems to me to exceed a reasonable speed limit at the beginning. I become reflective, sensing an impending disruption more than any possible improvement. I'm not so much interested in or obsessed with whatever end state my actions might induce, but with the beginning state they will insist upon. Who must I become to begin? What must I leave behind to start?

I call this time The Essential Milling Around Period. No project schedule ever represents this useful activity because it seems useless, trying the patience of the more decisive, apparently producing nothing of real value; no measurable deliverable, no fluff of wind in anyone's hair to represent progress, which as General Electric used to proudly proclaim, "is our most important product."
But no man and certainly no project, lives solely by progress nor by momentum. While each project must at some point make some progress, those moving forward too quickly tend to find their progress taking them sideways or backwards rather than forward. Given that there's really no way to gauge proper direction at the start, these lateral and backward slides seem to be more features than problems, but the unreflective experience can take a toll. The shock and surprise of stumbling out of the blocks can undermine whatever confidence changing course requires.

So I procrastinate at the beginning. I might state my intention without quickly demonstrating that intention with action. I might hold my intention until it seems to any reasonable observer that I've forgotten or am reneging, but I have not forgotten and I would not renege. I am instead considering, often rather frantically, working out attack angles, fretting over invisible little logistical difficulties; not planning, exactly, but reflecting. I'm asking myself what day two might look like, so I can better engage on day one. I'm wondering what I cannot see from here so that I might lessen the shock value when unforeseeables finally come into sharp focus. I'm mentally preparing for the upcoming self-inflicted disruption in the familiar status quo.

I invariably discover upon reflection that I'm missing some tool or that some tool exists that might well be necessary or in some way critically helpful, but that I do not know what it's called or where to acquire it. My understanding of the mechanical world almost rivals the typical Middle Ages peasant's. My reflections tend to be notoriously naive. I don't know what I don't know about. I'm never current on the latest thinking. I draw more from my own narrow experience than from anyone else's. I might appear to be idling, but I'm more spooling up. The complications I can perceive beforehand usually seem adequate to put me off on the idea of initiating anything. The very most successful projects ever initiated chose not to go further than the initiation ritual because after beginning, the can of worms start crawling out of the opened can and much of the following effort insists upon chasing down the damned things, no matter how well planned any action or strategy was beforehand.

Rather than feeling excited at the prospect, I feel humbled by it. Not humiliated, but humbled. Humiliation will most certainly come later, and I expect my initial reflections to better condition me for recognizing, accepting, and more smoothly integrating these unavoidables, though I will never know how successfully. Fools rush in, they say, but us fools who don't just rush in wrestle with the sense that others think us extremely foolish, maybe even cowardly, to fail to engage with decisive speed. I adhere to the Wind The Watch Principle, whereby I try to expend my startle response doing something, anything, that could not possibly do any harm. Any apparently meaningless little action might serve this purpose. Iron a shirt. Reorder the old sock drawer. As long as I intend the action to have no possibility of propelling me "forward" in that instant, it will likely serve its purpose to keep me from too cavalierly nudging any boulder off any cliff to induce some overwhelming avalanche.

Anyone not reticent about starting a new adventure will end up with a lot more adventure than they bargained for.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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