Field Notes from 34.1561° N, 118.1319° W


Janice has been with the company for only a couple months, and she has quickly
established herself as a stellar member of the company team.  Her many responsibilities also include stewardship of the company Daily, an email that she sends out every morning to all company employees that includes a “quote of the day” and other information like birthdays, schedule for the conference rooms, who is not at HQ that day, events, and other pertinent company information.

The other day she and I were discussing various project matters, and I complimented her again on the first-class job she does with the Daily and the meaningful, valuable quotes of the day she comes up with.

“Thank you, Michael!  You always give me feedback about the Daily, but I wonder
sometimes if people are actually reading it.”

Thus of course she was feeling a bit uneasy about the value of the Daily and the time it takes her to do it.  I was quick to respond:  “Are you out of your mind?!  Everybody reads it and takes it seriously.  That is a critical, dynamic company document on so many levels you must not even make me commence about it.”

So naturally I commenced a little about it.

“And besides,” I added to my pronouncements, “you haven’t been here very long.  I wager you’ll soon enough understand with better clarity what the hell I’m talking about.”

“Okay, Michael,” said the ever-gracious Janice, “thanks!”

The “soon enough” part came around faster than I might have wagered.

Yesterday, the Daily provided the following Quote of the Day:

“We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken.  We think that we are invincible because we are.  We cannot be born, and we cannot die.  Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations.  They forget that when they get old.  They get scared of losing and failing.  But that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail.”
— John Green

“Well,” I thought to myself, “I certainly don’t disagree with it in concept, though it’s a bit ponderously stated.  It is a pretty profound albeit New Age-y sounding notion to be putting out there in context of the company though.”

Being a key player at the company since its inception quite some years ago and knowing everybody at the company as well as I do, I found myself interested in how such a concept was actually being received by them.  It’s a very diverse crew in all respects, with equally diverse management issues accordingly.  Could I possibly be surprised?

“Oh, why NOT,” I grinned hugely to myself.  Clicking a “reply all” to the Daily email – which meant of course that not only Janice would get my response, but everybody in the
company as well – I typed:

Oh for cryin’ out loud.  Janice, where did you dig up this John Green fella from?  He’s clearly
either an engineer or a reject from a Shirley MacLaine seminar.

Talk soon — Michael

Click – SEND.

I’m certainly not by any stretch “old”, though I have been an upstanding member of AARP for some years now.  However, it is fairly noted that I have been around for a long time.  Hell, I not only survived the New Age Movement which took place in the 1980s and a ways into the 1990s, I had thrived in it!  And as one of my long-time-proven original credos goes, “That which is inevitable is invariably predictable.”

The predictable “reply all” email responses were quick in coming.

The very first came from the Boss — the President/CEO:

What are you talking about?  I liked the quote.  Thanks Janice.  Keep it coming!

That response got a humongous guffaw out of me, and I suspected that amidst his ever-
intense pace he hadn’t really comprehended what the quote was actually advocating. “I’ll gleefully remind you what you wrote next time we discuss metaphysics,” I smugly said to him in my head.  He had long overtly dismissed the enduring spirit and other such
concepts – as expressed by Shirley MacLaine or anybody else for that matter.

Jeremy:  Haha, good one Michael

Well, yes, Jeremy always appreciates my keen wit that actually entertains me more than anybody else.

Hajino:  I don’t understand the quote, so it must not be Zen.

I stick with the “chop wood, carry water” concept when discussing such things with Hajino.

Karen:  Don’t pick on Janice – she’s doing a great job.

Uh-huh. EMINENTLY predictable from her.

Patricia:  Well, I suppose it make some sense.  I kind of agree with Michael though.  Oh-oh.  Janice, in case you don’t know yet, Michael takes no prisoners, he’s very confrontational.

Janice knows.

Jacob:  Makes perfect sense to me since I’m Jewish.

Teresa:  Makes perfect sense to me since I’m Christian.

George:  Makes perfect sense to me, and I’m not anything.

And so the cavalcade of spirited exchanges continued, creating quite a spectrum of
response for Janice to consider in light of our conversation.

The type of response from Carl, our senior engineer, was so beyond inevitably predictable it almost goes without saying:

For the record, in 2014, Green was included in Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world.  He has authored several best sellers.  He’s fairly young (except for the likes of Beth and Janice, but not Marty): born in 1977.

As a continuation to the “but not Marty” part of Carl’s email came this from the Boss:
or Michael who was born in the early 1900s.

HA!  Yeah, right – says he whose vanity will never allow him to be a member of AARP, which I have nailed him on ever since he became eligible some years back.

Came the end of the day, which found me out at a client site.  I called HQ, hoping that
Janice hadn’t left yet.  She answered the telephone, and burst into laughter when she
discovered it was me on the line.

“SO,” I said, do you see what I was getting at about the Daily?”

“Totally!” responded Janice with verve.  “That was really a lot of fun!  Thanks, Michael, I appreciate it.”

“Don’t thank me!  You instigated the whole thing.  But it isn’t like I actually disagree with the guy, it just seemed kind of ponderous to me.”

“Oh, yes, I know what you mean.  It was a little out there, but I really liked it.  But I was
going to ask one question.”

“Sure – what’s that?”

“Who is Shirley MacLaine?”


2 thoughts on “Field Notes from 34.1561° N, 118.1319° W

  1. It is — the Boss demands fearless CONSTRUCTIVE give-and-take as part of the corporate culture; since “I’m with him”, so be it.

    It is worthy to note that it takes a massive amount of energy to ensure that “vibe” stays constructive, particularly given that DESTRUCTIVE give-and-take energetic is SO pervasive “out there” (increasingly magnified out there by, for example, the ever-divisive 2016 USA election.) Accordingly, it’s very easy for staff members to unwitting come to work with a cloud of that. It’s a terrific crew though, and they diligently try to keep aware of one of my basic rules — “Leave your shit at the door.” As a result, there can be a lot of constructive fun. Our type of corporate culture has always been comparatively rare in the marketplace for a variety of reasons; even more so now.

    The actual nature of any individual employed by the company must be a CONSTRUCTIVE one. A few individuals with a DESTRUCTIVE nature have made it through the door over the years. However, those individuals have typically soon left the company under their own volition or — “when people show you who they are, believe them” — they are shown the door….

  2. This is a wonderful story. I’m still laughing. What fun it must be to work in an atmosphere with this much fearless give and take.

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