Eternal Vigilance

Weiss Advice Issue: 220, November, 2021

The gifted social psychologist, Marshall McLuhan, pointed out that “the price of eternal vigilance is indifference.” By that he meant that if we have to focus on the possibility of something happening every day, we become fatigued and inattentive.

All those fine people at TSA make mistakes, daily. ICBM crews in silos in the Midwest have been known to fall asleep. Train engineers have a “dead man’s button” which must be pushed every minute or so to prove they’re awake or the train automatically brakes to a stop. Many of them have created devices to hit the button automatically while they catch some sleep.

The way to manage multiple clients—which apparently, many of you are afraid to try to do because of the threat of “too much work”—is to manage by exception. Don’t micromanage. Don’t try to follow every nuance every day. Stop trying to be abreast of every technological advance and office gizmo.

You can upgrade yourself into oblivion.

I have always advised executives to manage by exception and lead when required. The rest of the time I don’t care if they “sleep.” A co-pilot (and a vice president) are unnecessary unless circumstances require their intervention.

Consulting is not about applying your expertise every single day. It’s about knowing when it’s needed and then being brilliant and, instead of being indifferent, making a difference.