Viscosity

Viscosity-Chart-2-1
"Whether I move fast or slow probably has more to do with fluid dynamics …"

My first rule of project management insists that one must first find the natural rhythm of the effort, then do whatever possible to match that rhythm. I might have just as easily proposed matching the viscosity rather than the rhythm, if only because viscosity seems somehow easier to determine. The gist says that one should avoid expecting honey to flow like water. Well-understood principles govern the fluid dynamics of substances, but these principles become meaningless if one mischaracterizes the substance they're working with. Few projects in my experience ever flowed like water. It seemed that most of the executives funding the efforts presumed they would and could, an easy mistake if you've never been up to your armpits in window putty that was touted as likely to flow like water.

Different times, a project as well as a life, might well exhibit different Viscosities. What started as honey might shift to behaving more like water for a time, then seize up into window putty nearer the end. I have my days when my life flows like an icy Languedoc Rosé and others when it moves at pre-global warming glacial velocity. I overrun my mesa top sometimes when my life's viscosity freezes up on me. My personal plans, too, tend to overly smooth the capricious nature of my life's flow, setting expectations based upon misconceptions or simply by extrapolating an imagined average from my current state. I probably should remember that holidays have always been hard for me, more the texture of chunky peanut butter, and set my expectations accordingly. My swiftness around Christmastime reliably manages to accelerate to almost the speed of a screaming snail, and yet my lethargy continues to surprise me.

In anticipation, the average viscosity of my life seems to be a very convincing equivalent to that of the wind. In practice, it might average that of a halfway decent extra virgin olive oil, with notable sticker exceptions. I hold no animosity toward either wind or oil, but to my dogged inability to reliably anticipate which substance I'll find myself swimming through. I perhaps most reliably disappoint myself as my expectations begrudgingly yield to whatever substance I find myself immersed in. Planning for putty seems as self-defeating as planning for wind, and I have developed no reliably means for more accurately assessing beforehand. I spend the first hour of every day, it seems to me, sticking my toe into the world and licking my finger to hold it up to presumed wind, trying to determine the viscosity of whatever world I've awakened into.

Some days seem magical. What required hernia-inducing effort the day before seems to demand no effort at all today. What seemed to just take care of itself last week lost its apparent mastery over the subsequent weekend. I seem to be either adapting or stuck, sometimes blessed and almost as often seemingly cursed. None of these conditions have very much to do with me or else all of them have only everything to do with me. I read with skeptical interest the promoters of mindfulness, uncertain if they just tout mindfuls of you-know-what. No project team ever successfully circumvented the Viscosity surrounding them, except by accepting the Viscosity as it appeared to be. It just won't wish away.

Today, I'm reconsidering how I cope with the fasts and the slows, those conditions that impede or improve the velocity of my life. My plan, however optimistic or pessimistic, might serve as nothing more (or less) than a baseline against which to consider my expectations. The plan can't be the metric of goodness, and only begins to provide its real value when I discover that I've set my expectations incorrectly for the conditions I find once I'm immersed in whatever fluid or solid encases my effort. Whether I move fast or slow probably has more to do with fluid dynamics than my personal attitude, though effectively adapting, shifting down or up accordingly, deeply affects my attitude.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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