If we’re not careful in business, we’ll submit to the “Bottom Line-Only Thinking” (BLOT) monster. Maybe this is how Scrooge got that way (maybe not – I don’t remember his backstory or Dickens’ implication for his beginnings). The BLOT monster is dark and dangerous, and its victims become contagious converts!
BLOT monsters often reveal themselves this time of year – fiscal year-end to many businesses, coincidentally placed so delicately near Christmas. Have you seen one?
Here’s how it happens: we become fixated on this week’s, this month’s, or even this year’s bottom line. Tunnel vision in the 8-to-5. BLOT monsters are often slave to a machine – so a spreadsheet or a chart or dashboard view will turn a red number black, or raise a bar up to or beyond a line.
Good of Goals, or Grind of Greed?
Sure, goals are great. We need them in our personal lives, in sports, in our families, and on our teams at work. But we must be careful to never become a slave to them. [Yes of course, we’re the ones that set the goals in the first place. We program machines and software to turn red numbers black. We set the goal lines where we want the bars to reach or breach. So, yeah, in a way it’s becoming slaves to ourselves and not some sentient machine. Yet! Dunh dunh dunh]
First of all, we don’t want to become that monster for our own good. When we turn the good of goals into a grind of greed, it’s not good on us. Or the people around us. And that’s where the problem has its compound impacts. Because the effect of the BLOT monster is that we turn people – even our families – into utilities, if not BLOT monster converts! At its worst stages we will wring people out today, with no consideration of tomorrow – or beyond – to satisfy something of relative value. Wait – relative value?
Relative to What?
This is the question that exposes the true underlying challenge: what is true treasure? What lasts? If we determine what true treasure is, we can rightly decide in each moment, day, and year how to think about what we’re doing at work, and who we’re getting the privilege of doing work with.
So one of the finest things, one of the hallmark achievements of life, is recognizing: we must treasure true treasure that lasts. Grass withers and flowers fade. Paint chips. Metal rusts. And many initiatives and businesses falter. Surely we can’t consider those as “lasting” or of primary value in this context.
Taking the time to consider and answer the question, “What lasts?” will have an impact on how we live each day. And how we live each day will impact others around us. That’s not hyperbole, it’s just cause and effect.
So, what lasts? What is true treasure? Surely people are one of the very few that last. Surely, people are true treasure. I believe our souls (though certainly not our bodies) endure forever. But even if you disagree with me there, we should at least give each other the benefit of doubt and presume, say, a 111-year life expectancy for each other. That sounds about right.
Thinking of your neighbor, your in-laws, your co-workers, your “chain of command”, the slow people driving in the left lane, the tall guy sitting in front of you at the Star Wars premiere … thinking of them all as lasting will impact you.
The Billion Year Plan
I call it the “Billion Year Plan.” Treat people as if you could look them in the eyes and pick up a conversation a billion years from now without regret of your past.
It’s powerful in marriage. One of the things I’m learning, oh so late in life, is to appreciate the difference between The Way Things Should Absolutely Be, and mere personal preference. I’m trying to make self-deprecating jokes often at home about it, as a way of remembering this.
It’s also powerful in recreation. I remember one pick-up game at the co-rec at Purdue in the 90s. I was battling a guy taller and more athletic than me for a rebound, very early in the game. After boxing him out and doing what needed to be done to keep my position, he looked at me and called me, “F*#@er!” I looked at him and said, “Mike. The name’s Mike.” And we played on. Some of you reading, and laughing at this, were in that game.
But the Billion Year Plan is certainly powerful in business as well. And that’s the real point I’m driving to today:
Treasuring the true treasure that lasts is the anti-dote to the Bottom Line-Only Thinking monster. People are going to endure beyond this year’s goals. Be sure to treat them that way.
Cameo illustration by my youngest.