Brendan (my son) struggled to get out of bed on his birthday to go to school. I tried to inspire him to action (and towards the waiting car) by repeating the Martin Luther King quote I had read the day before. It appears above. He gave me the look that only 14 year olds can – a mixture of pity and contempt – and muttered “Sure Dad. You just keep living the dream.” My enthusiasm for the day was punctured. Despite his cynicism Brendan was in the car, ready to go, on time.
Two weeks ago I took a wrong turn while on a bush walk. I had plenty of water and my location was known. The risk was low, but my irritation factor was high. So was the temperature – I was hiking around “the Olgas” in the Northern Territory.
I stopped for a drink and quickly decided to abandon my sight-seeing plans. Getting back to the car was an arduous slog, with several stops in the shade of bushes to rest and sip water. My anger at my mistake (and the wasted day, and my sore feet) were mollified by the knowledge that my plan to navigate my way back to the car and its execution had prevented things getting worse.
Sometimes, it’s like that at work. Something starts to go wrong and we can be tempted to over-think what our best reaction should be. Perhaps time is lost in additional research (of limited value) and then subsequent lengthy debate as to the ideal response with the result that – in the meantime – things get much worse, and take greater and lengthier remediation. My (admittedly limited) experience is that often it is better to make a decision on the known facts and then act swiftly to “nip the problem in the bud”. Lawyers should not be afraid to drive themselves and their clients towards prompt decision making and implementation. To quote Winston Churchill: “I never worry about action, but only inaction.”