Gangster Wart

Dear J-

When I was little, I went, as little boys are likely to, through the usual crazes — dinosaurs, robots, and knights (this last I suspect has partially fueled the hockey instinct in me — how else could you explain poring over catalogs of pads and gear in grear detail?).  I also had a phase where all I would read about were gangsters, in particular Al Capone.  It’s not as though I wanted to set up my own murderous crew — I was more intrigued by the more romantic aspects of the life; any band of outlaws must have had some sort of Robin Hood-like code, right?  Better yet, here was an example from modern history.

Of course, the more I read the more I was able to disabuse myself of that notion, but I never seemed to be able to reconcile how someone who wielded such great power ended up falling on such a trivial charge — tax evasion.  On the one hand, it was testament to how well the operation was going that no matter how guilty we knew he was of greater charges, they could only find such a small charge to stick.  On the other, perhaps it’s testament to the persistence of the prosecution that they were able to finally find the Achilles heel in that façade.

I am, as Frau Tan, our drawing teacher noted, a detail-oriented person.  She used to claim that you could tell a lot about a person’s personality just by watching them draw — she made that remark upon watching me attempt to badly illustrate a political cartoon, as I kept trying to get the edges of the stacks of money just right.  I lose sight of the bigger picture for knowing and delighting in the mechanics of processes; it’s helpful because you know what step to take next, but it’s far more difficult to build the pyramid from the base up if you don’t know what you want to end up with.  It’s a fine line to tread, and assuming you have the charisma — or the clout — to get things done with other people, your organization will be tremendously successful.  If instead you can barely keep your life straight (guilty as charged), I claim no particular guarantee of success directing and shaping people asking me for help (and believe me, I know how much of a cop-out that sounds like).  Continuous improvement means identifying issues and resolving them; well, at least those warts are out there — now to find a way to burn them off.

Mike

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