Late last week two seemingly unrelated stories broke.
The first was the announcement of a final ruling from an “independent” arbitrator on Adrian Peterson’s appeal of his suspension from the NFL for domestic violence. The arbitrator, an NFL plant who was hand-picked by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, upheld the original ruling. As a result, Peterson will remain suspended through at least the remainder of the 2014 season.
In the second, the feds released an exhaustive study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques. The study (at a cost of $40 million !!!) outlined a controversial program that was shielded from presidential and congressional oversight and ended the life of several enemy combatants.
What was striking about both stories was the public reaction to them. For Peterson, aside from the most rabid fans, it was accepted. “He got what he deserved, who cares, he’s a child abuser”. For the CIA case, the narrative was largely a debate. “Did we get actionable intelligence from these techniques?” and “did we save American lives?”.
Completely lacking from each discussion was any focus on the real story. Corruption due to a lack of oversight.
In one, you have Goodell the dictator, a committee of one, arbitrarily and capriciously wielding power. Under the old model, if you didn’t like his verdict you could appeal to… him. Following his bungled Ray Rice verdict, your appeal is no longer heard by him, but a lackey he appoints– a lackey who happens to be on his payroll and under his supervision. It is truly a distinction without a difference.
If the NFL ever wises up and fires Godell, he’d do well to consider a career in the CIA. There they are equally adept at making it up as they go. In the field, their operatives alone define the line they can’t cross and then revisit that decision once they reach that line. The good news is that unlike the NFL, the CIA eventually gets to transparency, albeit at a cost of $40 million bucks.
Is my point that I think Peterson is a neat guy, or that we aren’t better off from having water-boarded a few terrorists? Of course not.
My point is that the reaction to both stories is more evidence that our national consciousness has landed on a “means justifying the ends” mentality. People are overly focused on the outcomes and missing the real issue here.
Process and accountability still matter. We all need to be accountable to someone or something and lacking that, just like Godell or the CIA, we will always get into trouble. It works the same for government or private business as it does for morals or even entrepreneurship.
The reason you haven’t started your own business isn’t because you don’t have the time, or the finances. You haven’t worked on it because you have no process and no accountability.
Consider John. He’s an acquaintance of mine who always wanted to open a brewery. For years he thought about it. It was always “what he was going to do someday” and never “what he was doing”.
You know what finally got him off the schneid?
He finally shared the idea with two buddies. Only then did his dream take on action. Together they helped him chunk out the tasks and begin to live his dream. Today they are partners in a small business. John is working long days and busting his butt, but he’s also living his dream.
There is a saying about taking on a large task. They say the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. I’d add that an even better way is to follow John’s lead. Find someone you trust and share your intent. Confide in them, define the steps to get to your goal and empower that person to hold you accountable.
Only by working a process and checking ourselves regularly, can we begin to become our best selves. We do this best in groups. Surround yourself with yes men who never challenge you and you will end up soft. We need some accountability and a process. If we pursue both, together we can collaborate, build support systems and finally start consuming those pachyderms.