I’m so tired of doing everyone else’s job
We frequently hear people bemoaning that they are “doing someone else’s job.” I was admittedly one of those people during the DIA case, oftentimes getting frustrated that I was working hard (and at my own expense) to essentially fix the government. Can you blame me in my frustration? After all, there are literally thousands of people employed in the U.S. government to oversee its operation and yet there I was working of my own accord and getting more done than that army of bureaucrats employed to ensure its healthy and efficient operation. Even as I type this, I become infuriated at the waste and anemia of our government, and especially of our bloated and top-heavy Department of Defense. And there I was: “I’m so sick and tired of doing other people’s jobs!”
Do you ever use in your vernacular what is oftentimes referred to as the “royal they”? “They ought to…”. “They should do x, y, and z…”. I do…but lately I find myself doing it less and less and here’s why. I used to (more often) air grievances such as “they ought to fix these potholes!” (which was a satirical perennial knock on the mayor in my old stomping grounds of Rome, by the way…a nod to my Italian fans out there…). But what am I saying when I just throw a gripe like that out into the ether? Does it fix anything? No. Does it make me feel any better? Not really. In fact, it typically served to only further frustrate me because inevitably I would drive over the same damn pothole and say, even more annoyed “they really need to do something about these streets!” Did I ever, in that banal example, pick the phone up and report it? Nope. Why not? So, was the pothole ever fixed? Nope. (As a sidenote, if you ever want to get your daily fill of people dishing out a veritable smorgasbord of “royal they’s,” just hop on social media for a few winks.)
Let’s take this stupid pothole example one step further…let’s say you know how to fix potholes – you had the training and the materials and the law allowed ordinary citizens to go out and fix roads. Stay with me here. Would you go out and fix it yourself? If you did, would you be cursing and fuming the entire time? “F***’ing government should be doing this, not me! They should be taking care of this!” But you begrudgingly fix the road and after an hour or so of work, you leave the road in tip-top shape for many other drivers and passengers to enjoy. They won’t ever thank you for it, they won’t even know you did it. It just got done and because it did, a lot of people you don’t know benefitted from it. Further, what if you are like a master road repair craftsman? What if the local yokels at the public works department wouldn’t have done half the job you did? So, in the end, you had the skills, resources, wherewithal and know-how to contribute to your neighborhood/society/etc and you did. It wasn’t your job. It was, yes, someone else’s to do. But, for whatever reason, they didn’t do it. Maybe they didn’t know about the pothole. Maybe they just suck. Maybe both. Does it matter? Double bonus: it gets done the way you want it done!
So there I was late in 2021 all pissed off because I was doing the government’s job. But I was making headway which started to snowball in early to mid 2022 and by the end of it, I was influencing both legislation as well as oversight activities of the entire Department of Defense. Was that my job? Fuck no, I’m retired! But, was it getting done and getting done capably and thereby benefitting a lot of people? Yes. Double bonus: it was getting done on my terms.
Do I still get pissed when I do someone else’s job? Yes…but less so now. And that’s because the lesson I took away was this: when there is an “injustice” in this world, in order to maintain some semblance of emotional stability, I really have to decide between two essentially mutually exclusive paths: do something about it -or- not. Note there is not the third option of “do nothing and get all pissed because someone should be doing something.” This is also something I advise my clients of early on: you have to decide if what is happening is bad enough that you…YOU are willing to act. It’s a question with a yes/no answer. If yes, let’s do this! If no, stop wasting both of our time!
“Lord, grant me the strength to accept the things I cannot change,— Reinhold Niebuhr
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”