I’d Rather Be A Hammer Than A Nail

Posted: July 31, 2012 in Uncategorized


In May 2000, Mohammed Atta, mastermind of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, talked with a US Department of Agriculture loans officer about buying a small aircraft from which he planned to remove all the seats for some reason. He was also curious what she might know about security at the World Trade Centre and had a lot of nice things to say about Al Quaeda and Bin Laden.  The officer made no mention of this encounter was made to officials until after the attacks.

On February 1, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated as it tried to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Seven astronauts lost their lives that day. A NASA engineer whose sole function was to detect any structural issues during the launch phase thought he had spotted a loose tile and brought this insight to his superiors, concerned about the integirty during re-entry. He was ignored and decided to just keep quiet and hope for the best.

In September 2008, the US Feds seized control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Lehman Bros goes bankrupt, and the Dow Jones takes its biggest single day plunge in history – the horsemen of the financial apocalypse.  The records are legend with those who saw it coming – but nothing was done.

During the time of the Bernardo/Homolka serial murders, a street cop followed up on a tip from a woman who claimed to have been assaulted by Bernardo at a party. Bernardo as suspect drove the right kind of car, the right (wrong) personality, and matched the description investigators had of the killer. This was months before he was finally caught, months before he claimed two more victims. The cop worked up his tip, which was promptly ignored by the task force and then buried until the inquest pulled it out.

The term in failure theory is Organizational Bystander. They are all too common. It’s so much easier to assume that either things aren’t really going all that wrong, or you can’t really have an effect on the outcome of things. So much easier just to stand by and watch, not speak up, let the adults do their thing. You don’t want to be admonished, treated as trouble makers, Chicken Littles, challenge your career advancement. It’s so much easier to take your chances, bite your tongue and hope things don’t fail.

Those who have the courage take action when facing potential crisis are all too rare. Or maybe not – when things go right, do we even notice ?

What about you ? As you look at your own life, can you see the signals or are you too close to the action to know what’s going on ?

Are you taking charge of your own life or just standing by, letting things happen ?

Will you do whatever it takes to succeed or just try not to fail ?

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