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Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes:
Be Careful with that Step! (1816/1820)

" … just beneath the end of every rainbow."

New Year's Day brings the usual flurry of best wishes to drown out the flood of remembrances old years leave behind. We do not send good enough wishes, but only the very best. We do not wish ordinary times upon each other, but exclusively extraordinary ones, as if it wouldn't be good enough to wish anybody mere adequacy, only excellence. We command or demand the exceptional whenever we project into the future. Back when I worked with projects, it was rarely the case that the founding vision of any effort proposed producing a good enough result. They insisted instead that they, unlike every other project in the history of this universe before them, would create the most incredible product. It was usually not as though the organization needed an exemplary outcome to survive. They just proposed utopian outcomes, though none ever delivered even one.

This difference between proposed and delivered reliably sparked some controversy.
The sponsors would, at some point, find themselves convinced that the people working on their effort were particularly stupid. How else to explain the string of failures and shortcomings they reported? The relationship between builders and customers would get strained and need repeatedly mending, for fallback expectations were often little different than the original expansive ones. A great and humbling leveling almost always became necessary to deliver anything even remotely tolerable. Heaven on Earth was never once delivered.

I came to consider these best wishes a sort of back-handed Curse. TheCurse was never once intended like those associated with ancient mummies were. No! These were uniformly invoked with only the best of glowing, gold-plated intentions. They universally produced disappointment before delivering anything else. I get it. Nobody sends Christmas cards wishing anybody a modest Christmas and a moderate to tolerable New Year. We're attempting to spread cheer, not mere reminders of how the New Year will turn out if we're lucky. We do not intend to give the gift of over-statement, a questionable present at best.

Success often depends upon the quality of its target. Seeking The Best often seems to Curse the recipient with something worse. We speak in a generally understood hyperbole. Besides a general understanding, how else could we prevent ourselves from driving each other crazy with our best intentions? I understand we're not always successful in translating impossible aspirations into acceptable substitutions, and one might feel cheated when seeing what they managed to accomplish. Most of my accomplishments have been of the more modest sort, with a few astonishing results, made even more satisfying by the fact that I rarely saw them coming. I'm learning to keep my eyes focused on what actually needs accomplishing and not on apparent pots of gold lurking; I’m confident, just beneath the end of every rainbow. Happy New Year, may yours be filled with adequacy and not altogether too much disappointment!

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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