October 2019: Full Contact Project Management

October 2019: Full Contact Project Management

The Lie of a Comfortable Crucible: The Long Search for the Easy Way Out 


Gary MicheloniWords: “Coach” Gary Micheloni

Indulge me a moment as I rant about the tendency today to make things easier for others. If we are talking about your customers, then absolutely make things better and easier. But, if the subject concerns training for your field people– then the answer is absolutely not! 

You are probably asking yourself now, “does ‘Coach Gary’ want us to be mean to our people?” Of course not. I just think it is time to recognize that coddling folks and treating them as delicate ‘snowflakes’ is not helping. It is hurting them. It is hurting our country, our communities, families, and it is darn sure hurting our schools. Ultimatelyit is also hurting our businesses. Instinctively, you already know all this, but let me try and explain in my familiar, but unusual way. I am going to try and do it in a way that I will not sound like the movie actor, Clint Eastwood, playing an old man who just yells at everyone to stay off his lawn!  

To best explain this, I need to tell a story or two, and meander a bit to better make the point, so stick with me- it will be worth it.  

Three of my current favorite TV shows are “Shark Tank,” “The Profit,” and “Undercover Billionaire”. There’s a common theme, and it’s not the obvious one that they are all ‘reality shows’, or they are about businesses just getting started. That is there, of course.  

No, I am talking about the fact that virtually all businesses struggle to get off the ground, as well as to keep things running. That is such a valuable lesson that is too often lost on (dare I say it?) people with less…maturity! Okay, ‘younger people’- there, I said it! 

Three of my children have contracting businesses involved with garage door repair and installation. Like all businesses, and contracting businesses in particular, getting started is not easy. It is easy to get discouraged. You all know the drill!  

So, I have made it a point to introduce them to those three programs, and they have become fans that watch regularly. The takeaway I crave for them is that they constantly see the difficulty involved for every business to get started, generate revenue, pursue profitability, and overcome discouragement.  

How many times does this scenario come up on these shows? The new entrepreneurs mention that they have built their businesses without a lot of cash, that they often are unpaid themselves, working extremely long hours? I want my kids to see this struggle. It is important for potential and current business owners to know that these obstacles are real- and that the world is not picking on them! 

More than that, it is a great lesson for all the world to see: there is a certain nobility in starting a business, creating jobs, and making a payroll, because to do this requires that you find a need and provide a solution. This is real and valuable work things which are of importance to others and for which they are willing to pay.  

By contrast, governments don’t create jobs, nor products. Rarely does a government ‘build’ anything. They may be overseers, but they don’t build walls or streets, or pipelines—or fix garage doors, for that matter. 

Let me say that I am not here to rag on government. Far from it. I am a big fan of our military, for instance, and that is definitely a government function. But what I resent, what scares me, what ticks me off is a much too prevalent mindset among a number of people in our country that businesses/corporations/CEO’s/executives, and so on, are bad- simply because they are these things, and too many people have been educated to believe these things are bad. Amazingly, this is a fairly recent phenomenon, and yet is a complete reversal of how our country was founded and operated for hundreds of years.  

Quick survey for you: out of the shows you regularly watch or listen to, and the other contemporary things you read, are businesses generally viewed as good or bad? How about developers, factories, new condo projects, or shopping centers? My experience is that unless the businesses reside on Main Street, they are viewed unkindly.  

It’s important that our field people learn the skills required to build our cities and infrastructure They must understand that their valuable skills come at a price (worth paying by them) that nobody just hands it out, in equal measure, and that some people are more skilled than others, making them more important to their companies. It’s not a certificate which makes things so. The ultimate degree or certificate is what the real world thinks.  

Probably the best example of this, to me, is the military, and how it trains its people. They’ve learned the very hard lesson that making training easier does not help to accomplish the mission. In fact, slacking off in training can get people hurt, or worse. So, what do they do? 

The U.S. Army culminates its basic combat training with the Victory Forge, which is 72 hours of intensive, continuous training at the end of its eight-weeks-long basic training. 

The U.S. Marine Corps has the Crucible, 54 hours of sleep-deprived, stress-filled exercises, designed to bring out the best–or show a deficiency that can require some re-training. Better that, than the alternative. 

Our Special Forces units, all branches, go beyond this. Notably, the SEALs have “Hell Week”, which is actually designed to encourage troops to drop out. “Get out now. Get an easier job. Ring the bell and your pain stops.” About 75% do drop out. Only about 1 in 4 makes it. 

This month we celebrate Veterans’ Day. Be sure and thank the vets in your life. And while we’re at it, December marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, the largest land battle fought on the Western Front of Europe, and the largest battle ever fought by the U.S. Army. Notable is that this was all fought during the dead of winter, for a month, and involved over one million soldiers on both sides. We owe so much to these heroes. 

Which is why, as I think of these noble sacrifices, of young people and their families, whether it be 75 years ago, or the new recruits of today, and then read about what “triggers” some young folks today, I realize that the ‘Snow-flakian philosophers of today have no idea as to the true terror of what “triggers” actually mean. It almost makes me begin looking for a bucket just in case I feel the need to …you know! 

Since it is the month for Thanksgiving, let me encourage you to make the time and thank your suppliers and subcontractors, and the other important people in your life. Send out your holiday cards THIS month- not next. The added benefit is that the cards will be visible for a longer time. We have a lot to be thankful for in this country, and for the family, friends, business associates, and community members who helped us along the way. 

Let’s all hope for the best, of course, but be prepared for the worst. As President Ronald Reagan famously said, “Trust, but verify.” Still a pretty good model! 

I saw a new book today, “Thank You for My Service”, by Mat Best, a former special forces type who recognizes that, having come through multiple combat deployments, he is actually grateful to the people of our country for having been given the opportunity to serve us. Talk about turning a phrase! Just imagine if professional athletes in our country could be as great, as humble, and inspiring as our military. Wouldn’t that be something?  

Embrace the victory forges, crucibles and hell weeks in your life as training aids to help you and your people get stronger and better. Easy for me to say; harder for you to do, I know… 

In all of this, Be Thankful! It is the month for it, after all. 

Copyright 2019 Gary Micheloni

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