The Thursday Thesis – 28/2/2019
Don’t you just love deadlines?
When my old boss told me there was a deadline for hitting my sales figures I’d squirm inside; not because I had any doubt about hitting those targets, but because “deadline” is one of those words for me.
There’s a certain implied menace in a deadline – the very word summons the dark presence of an executioner into the mind, stalking across my wall planner wielding a big axe...
That’s hardly surprising, because the modern usage of deadline is thought to be a carry-over from the prisoner of war camps of the American Civil War. In the camps it was a practice to designate a line about twenty feet inside the perimeter stockade. Any prisoner encroaching on, or crossing, that line would be shot and killed without hesitation. Deadline – simple, menacing, ruthless.
Today a deadline is the point in time where your ability to effect change ends. After the deadline, however good your work is, it will not be admitted or considered. As one of my mentors once said, “...they didn’t want it perfect, they wanted it Wednesday.”
So I’m playing another of my stupid mind games on myself this week (the Department of No Surprise have been informed of this already, and they were not surprised). This week’s daft plan is to eliminate the D word from my vocabulary and replace it with a word that is less intimidating, less final – less fatal.
I don’t want a fluffy word that suggests a troupe of gilded unicorns, choreographed by Busby Berkeley, prancing on my lawn – that would be far too distracting – but a solid, working-clothes kind of word with a pencil tucked behind its ear; a word that calls a spade a bloody shovel and whacks me round the back of my head with the aforementioned digging implement.
And if the word can then tell me to get up off the bloody floor and stop being such a softie, preferably with a Yorkshire accent, that’ll be grand.
So today I’m having a rummage through the rag-bag of my word horde for a suitable candidate...
Nope, a bit too airy-fairy for me.
Moment of Truth?
Better, but not doing it on a gut level.
Now we’re getting there.
I like this one, particularly if I use the German word “Wendepunkt”, because anytime you want to make a word more gritty and forceful just look up its German counterpart.
Current front runner is the Bosnian word for deadline, “Rok”. I love this – because it sounds solid, immovable and brutally hard like granite – and of course, I’ll take action to avoid smashing into the Rok.
So maybe it’s a rok, maybe it’s a deadline; but whatever you call it, a deadline gets things done.
That’s why I care about deadlines - because they give me something to aim for, something to navigate by – and they compel me to focus on taking action.
No deadline means that there is no sense of urgency to kick-start me into action on that task that’s going to make a difference. I’ll invariably put it off until tomorrow and kid myself that I will get it done.
You might know someone else who does this, too: not you, obviously, but perhaps someone you know very well...
You could even ask yourself how much you actually get done during your long holidays, and be honest about it. The chances are that you – like me – will achieve the square root of sod-all when there’s no deadline for a job or task that you want to get done.
That’s why we are mortal – to give us a real, hard deadline, and in this case the mot juste really is “Deadline”.
© Neil Cowmeadow 2019
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