html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: He lived at my hippy co-op long before I did.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

He lived at my hippy co-op long before I did.

My boss is brilliant. I've long known my boss is brilliant. I take advantage of this by asking him questions on everything I worry about. I quiz him until he remembers he has more important stuff to do than describe dam breaks to me.

I've worked for him for a couple years now, and I only today figured out what is so disconcerting about my boss. My boss experiences no denial. None. He does not engage in denial at all. If something sucks, it sucks. If it is going to be bad, he says so. He's sort of Cassandra around here, while I watch and wonder if they'll notice that what he predicted came to be. Again. But they don't.

Having finally figured this out, I am so curious. I quizzed him some more, and for once he didn't know. Does he realize that he completely skips the denial part? "Well, you have to go with the evidence." Has he noticed that other people don't go with the evidence, that it takes them years to acknowledge bad news? Yes. He has noticed that, but he doesn't get it. What does he do if he's building something and the piece doesn't fit and it is going to take four hours to make the new piece? "You throw it across the room and start over." Do you really, really hope it will fit first? No. It isn't going to fit. Wow.

This leads to my next set of questions. Did you always have no denial in you? He doesn't know. Was this learned, was there an epiphany? He doesn't remember an epiphany. I think you'd remember an epiphany like that, so I believe him that there wasn't one.

He had to go work before I could pin it down, but it wasn't for lack of staring at him with my eyes narrowed. I have to think about it more. No denial whatsoever. The rest of us must frustrate him all the time.


Blogger matt said...

I think I would really enjoy working with him. That's a rare gift.

5:10 PM  
Anonymous scottb said...

I work with someone like that. He's awesome to work with.

As a side benefit - if he knows something, he tells you he knows. If he's not certain, he'll tell you _he doesn't know_. I try to get people to tell me they don't know something when I'm interviewing them for a job. I'm firmly convinced that one of the most important technical skills is knowing what you _don't know_. Making a clear distinction between _fact_ and _something that's probably true_ is really huge.

7:58 AM  
Anonymous swissarmyd said...

the handy upside to this is that you don't have to go to as many meetings... you don't get invited as much if you actually tell people the truth. "It'll take a month." 'You have to do it in a week according to the schedule.' "The schedule is wrong. You will need to adjust accordingly." Heh, you could have heard a pin drop...

Oddly, I haven't been asked back to those meetings since...

I'll second how nice it is to work with a boss like that. Mine isn't like that really, but he does back me up when I dig in. Best Boss line? "either you can accept his estimate, or he can double it so you can cut it in half, and you will still have the same figure." That was for Y2K software re-writes...

I'm glad you have a boss like that, it may be that he's on some pilgramage...

although, I have noticed that people like that can be utterly confounded by the question: "do these jeans make my rear-end look big?"

2:43 PM  
Anonymous Ennis said...

Isn't Justin like this too? Hey Justin - do you experience self-deception?

10:09 PM  
Blogger JRoth said...

I appreciate what you're getting about the benefits of the no-denial POV; I like to think that it would also describe me. But the part of me that it doesn't describe is the optimistic part - the part that, essentially, uses denial to skip over the grieving (so to speak) and get straight to either getting over it or solving it.

So the other day my wife tells me that her contract for next year won't be renewed, and so that, in 6 weeks, we're down to one income (until about 2 months ago, she was the primary breadwinner). I immediately assured her that everything would be fine, etc. It's hard not to call that "denial," but it's useful as hell, and gets us to figuring out what the next steps are without wailing and gnashing of teeth. Especially since, odds are, everything will be fine.

I might add that this also relates to admitting what you don't know/can't do. As long as there's a healthy capability behind it, overconfidence can be a path to great accomplishment. My whole house is heated for the cost of materials plus some incidental plumbing work that I couldn't do because I was blandly confident that I could do it all myself. Voila.

7:29 AM  
Blogger JRoth said...

PS - I couldn't think of anything helpful to say last week, but it seems that you're coping well, and I'm glad. Best, best wishes with all that's new and old.

7:30 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

Thanks, JRoth, and all y'all.

Last week sucked, but it seems like I did most of the sadness up front. I've been pretty OK since.

11:48 AM  

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