Thursday, August 25, 2011

Expertise is SO Entertaining

One of the very odd things about the current wave of populism sweeping America is the "I am as good/smart/whatever as anyone else" sentiment is the opposite of what soldiers really admire.  And calm expertise is what the civilian world admires about soldiers.

Navy SEALs were cheered and admired across America on May 2 when the news was confirmed that two quick shots ended the life of Osama Bin Laden.  Two months later when 21 Navy SEALs died in a Chinook shot down over Afghanistan a woman I worked with said, "What a waste.  All that training and they died like that."  I reminded her (gently) that the Chinook crew, the Afghan commandos and the other soldiers on board that ill-fated helicopter were a great loss their country and their families.  But I understood what she meant.  The SEALs are so clearly at the top of their game.

We all know what expertise looks like in sports.  It's Sam Fuld horizontal in the air catching a fly ball.  It's Barry Sanders eluding five tackles in as many seconds and looking like he could run full speed sideways.  I love expertise.  When I broke my neck I was lucky to have a great neurosurgeon be on call.  No one is a populist when they have cancer or heart disease.  The want the best surgeon, not one who is as good as anyone else.

I had an expertise moment when my wife and drove our sons to visit their aunt Francesca in Ithaca NY.  Annalisa reads aloud during car trips.  She started by finishing a book about the genocide in Rwanda and Burundi.  She then read Tom Sawyer till she noticed me getting bored listening to the explanations of the unfamiliar words in this book.

So she read the book Zen To Done by Leo Barauta.  Annalisa carries a Franklin Planner, really uses it and is one of the most organized people I have ever known.  She reads all kinds of self help books, but organizing and time management books are among her favorites.  Zen To Done borrows a lot from the very famous Getting Things Done management system, but also borrows from the Franklin Covey system.

I thought Annalisa would just read this very short book.  But she stopped on nearly every page to explain the shortcomings of what she considered a very thin and ill-conceived time management system.  The ZTD system is based on ten habits, which I would have accepted at face value, but Annalisa knew what was wrong with every one.  If I remember correctly, two were not really habits.  She was animated for much of the five-hour drive home reacting to the obvious (to her) flaws in the the ZTD system.

I only heard of the system because my friend Brother Timotheus in Darmstadt said he liked some of the book.

I love expertise and I love the expert I married.  I hope she decides to write her own time management book that really does meld the best of Getting Things Done and the Franklin Covey systems.  Because clearly ZTD does not own the field.

The Philosopher of War and Terror and Politics: Hannah Arendt

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