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The autopilot excuse

May 5, 2009


I’ve done all I can. Its now up to you or God or nature, etc. to pull me through.

Sound familiar?

Its like flying a plane. You’re on manual control during takeoff. As soon as you reach a certain speed and altitude, you flip on the autopilot. I’ve done my part, you say. I now leave my fate to the autopilot.

The autopilot excuse is my term for taking a hands-off approach to a problem, usually after telling yourself you’ve done all you can. You pass the ball back to “nature” to let it take its course. Meaning there’s a notion that you are separate from nature because you can “pass” things to it. And being “outside” nature, you feel you have no influence over its course. But I’ll leave that discussion for another day. 🙂

In fact, you might be on autopilot right now. You’ve attended a job interview. You prepared hard for it. After doing the deed, you say to yourself, “I’ve done all I can. I now leave it to fate whether I get the job or not.”

You’ve done all you can? Really? Well let me help you with a few suggestions. You can bug your prospective employee’s HR every day on the status of your interview. Have you done that? What about giving the hiring manager a courtsey call to thank him for the chat. Or sending him or his CEO a followup email about the other things you can do to value-add to the job. Or how about sending them an article from CNET or Business Week that supports the stuff you said in the interview, you know, to drive home a point?

I can go on and on but you get my drift.

When we say we’ve done all we can, what do we really mean? It means we’ve done all we WANT to do, and that’s the problem I have with this “I’ve done all I can” business. It is a false statement. Logically speaking, you can never run out of things to do to support any objective.

But we love false logic because it makes ourselves feel good doesn’t it.

Its worth knowing that even in the airline business, the faith in autopilots is not absolute. Autopilots are designed to disengage under stressful conditions. But we humans have to do things the opposite way. When we’re stressed out and panicky, we turn on the autopilot. We leave it to fate. Hehe. 🙂

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 5, 2009 11:00 am

    We’ve done our best. Let’s just hope our client signs off tomorrow.

    The next day, shit, who the heck missed out on that requirement?!?! No wonder client didn’t want to sign off!

    Haha, isn’t it nice to have fate and bad luck to blame when things go wrong. It keeps us from going insane?

  2. May 5, 2009 2:52 pm

    You just said it. haha. That instinct of letting go helps us from going off the rocker. Put another way, prevents us from getting burnt.

    Yeah, the circuit breaker. That is what separates the ordinary from the high achiever in my opinion.

  3. May 5, 2009 6:17 pm

    The circuit-breaker.
    Your precision machine that works high-end items that needs accuracy may only need a limited power input. It has to be protected from high power surges erroneously supplied. On the other hand the rough and tough equipment that runs heavy loads needs a large power supply should have a bigger fuse. That makes the difference between machines.

    I believe nothing is ordinary nor exceptional in itself. It is only where and how it is applied. High achiever, low achiever, how do we really judge? The one who produces or gains most in the shortest possible time? Or the one who painstakingly puts together some obscure but equally important item into the equation except that he is not in the limelight?

    I remember a line from Peter Drucker who said, ‘you just don’t say someone is a good man’. ‘Good for what?’ should be the question.

    Yup, one can only measure success and failure relative to a baseline. Given the same challenge, a person with a lower threshold of pain will hit the circuit breaker more quickly than someone with a higher threshold. As to who has a higher chance of completing the mission, I’d put my money on the latter as he has control of the ship when the other had let go.

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