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BriefConsulting 2.8: Because and Affect

Thirty years ago, I supervised programmers responsible for maintaining the most remarkably convoluted mainframe financial systems. Their nightly processing ‘cycle’ frequently emerged as a choke point. One of the systems would crash trying to process some unexpected booger in the data stream, and one of my crew would get a pre-dawn summons from the night shift operator and head into the office to get around the stall. Time was always short, as the processing cycle needed to be finished in time to bring up the online system before the following morning’s day shift started.

I was interested in what happened in those small hours, so I’d sometimes mosey in under the guise of offering my support. I suppose my presence hurt more than it helped achieve resolution because I was deeply interested in understanding why these problems happened. I learned that the most effective midnight debuggers didn’t really care about finding the root cause of these problems. Slip over here for more ...


BriefConsulting 2.7: Tickling The Tickle Point

Ever since Malcolm Gladwell hit the best seller list with his The Tipping Point, I’ve been finding clients chasing their tail, pursuing that almost eternally elusive point where their system might actually tip. This doesn’t quite qualify as a fool’s mission, but I usually recommend ‘investing’ in lottery tickets as a viable, much more likely-to-be successful, alternative. The Tipping Point, you see, might be that point where a system crosses the Rubicon, unable to return to its old status quo. I promote a more easily achieved objective instead, The Tickle Point, where attention might shift without tipping anything over ... yet.

Anyone who’s ever wrestled a three year old out of a tantrum into a giggle fit understands the nature of The Tickle Point. It’s that point where the seemingly permanent frustration notices some brighter-shinier. True, nothing’s really changed at that point, except, perhaps, for focus. But once the focus changes, the previously impermeable barrier’s penetrated. Then, anything might happen. Even something really different. Slip over here for more ...


BriefConsulting 2.6: Up To Something

”Nobody’s apathetic, except when pursuing someone else’s goals.”

I look for that look in their eye, that smirky stare that swears it’s not up to anything, ... honest. The poorly-concealed joke. The heart-lightening nod. Their affect emanates quiet authority because these people are up to something.

This matters. More than almost anything. More than higher purpose. More than lofty goals. More than that promotion, paycheck, or bonus. Being up to something salts and spices and sweetens every engagement, while cynicism stalks anyone unfortunate enough to not be up to something.

”Who stole your tricycle?” Slip over here for more ...


Homefull 1.2: High Touch

Packing requires a lot of touching. Yesterday, I packed the books in my office, thirty one boxes, authors in alphabetical order, segregated into non-fiction and fiction. I touched every blessed one.

I sneezed my head off. My present seems like my past with dust. My treasures were dusty after three and a half years on the shelves. I found many old friends lurking; like touching my past.

I couldn’t feel anything but wealthy after a day perusing that past, recalling the times and places those titles first found me. That copy of Münchausen’s Pigtail, which, twenty-five years ago, fell to my feet off a shelf and changed my life. Sheldon Kopp’s remarkable parables which have inspired me so. The Saturday night dates spent rifling through the Powell’s Books sales stacks. The many titles that accompanied me on long, otherwise lonely night flights back home. Those remaining copies of David Pye’s The Nature & Aesthetics of Design, a book which undermined my faith in methodology and process. My future came into sharper focus while I immersed myself in this past. Slip over here for more ...


BriefConsulting 2.5: Saying Something

Cops work in pairs. Responding to a Disorderly complaint, only one of the two will enter the noisy nightclub. Their partner will Watch The Door. Experience teaches this simple protocol: entering a room subsumes one into that context. Perspective skews. Judgement, too. The one left by the door’s in charge of the intervention. The one who enters the room follows the watcher’s direction without question.

Brief Consultants often work in pairs, one seeming to engage while the other looks to be just hanging around the edges there. The one who looks like they’re slacking, they’re in charge.

Even when I’m working solo, this Brief Consultant watches because most of my presence value comes from me noticing something. I engage briefly because it doesn’t take long for me to inherit the same blind spots as everyone else within that space. For a brief few hours, I can see more than anyone already immersed in that soup, and no context needs more than a day or two to weave its trance. Nobody feels anything as perception fades. Slip over here for more ...


BriefConsulting 2.4: Purpose Full

I’ve been to the week-long workshops and the retreats and the brown bag booster shot luncheons where we sat together hoping to conjure up that feeling of being connected to a higher purpose. I’ve been saved, enslaved, and raved at; over-charged, barged in on, and marginalized in my pursuit. Either I’m full of it or they are, or maybe we all are.

I hold purposeful pursuit as one of my Seven Ethical Responsibilities. As a Brief Consultant—heck, as a man—I’ve grown to understand that few diseases do more damage than purposelessness. And for the longest time, I misunderstood where that purpose had to come from, and what purposeful pursuit really meant. Maybe all that church-going in my youth convinced me that little old me couldn’t quite qualify as a high-enough purpose; that what I wanted didn’t really matter if only I could connect with some ’truly’ higher purpose, I’d be in deep cotton. Deep shit, more likely. Slip over here for more ...


Homefull 1.0: Gravity's Pull

Way back in July, the landlords announced that they’d be selling this place. That message neutralized our status quo and introduced months of chaotic living. Since, I’ve stalked a replacement, dragging my sorry butt home feeling homeless dozens of times. In August, I thought I’d found a good-enough replacement, and The Muse was accepting, though cheerless. Two weeks ago I stumbled upon the real place, Amy learned that she wouldn’t be transferring to Colorado yet, and everything just started falling together.

The first part of this journey felt hindered by my attraction to my old status quo. Even though I knew we could not stay, I could barely stay away. I suppose some know this as denial, but I wasn’t denying anything except my apparent helplessness compared to gravity’s pull. Once we’d pulled far enough away, we felt adrift, weightless. We inhabited middle space, apparently attractive to no place and not yet attracted anywhere, either. This emptiness ruled for a month or two, and threatened to take over as the new status quo. What could we know? When could we know it? Slip over here for more ...


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