On Being Fit To Do Your Job

Our mayor is in the midst of a scandal.  It happens to be a sex scandal, but that’s not all that relevant to this post.

I’m sad.

I’m disappointed that this otherwise smart, hardworking guy – who genuinely cares about this city and I’d like to see stay in office – had not one but two big lapses in judgment (a poor choice followed by lying about the poor choice).

But I’m also ticked off.

By the publication that decided to stir the pot this week of all weeks. By the knee jerk reaction of the citizenry.

I’m thinking perhaps we should look inward before stoning him out of office.

I’ve been wondering who among us could actually survive the vetting process and come out a viable candidate for public service on the other side.

I wonder, if pressed, who among us would be tempted to lie about our choices, if only to keep something that’s really no one’s business but our own private.

Because we’ve all done something we’re really not so proud of.

Ms. MacDonald. Would you care to explain dating that jerk in your twenties? I mean, what were you thinking? How can we possibly trust your judgment now?”

Can you imagine having such a conversation with an entire city?

[By the way, the jerk is not my big secret. Like I’m going to share my Big Hairy Screw-up, the thing I would be seriously tempted to cover up rather than defend in public, here.]

* * * * * * * * * *

It seems to me we are created to learn. It’s one of the basic things we are born to do. Why else are we walking around with these big brains on the top of our bodies?

And we seem to learn best from trial and error, from our mistakes. Our fallibility has been ideally designed.  Our imperfection is perfect.

So what does it mean to limit public service to the squeaky clean? What are the implications of choosing leaders who have never made a mistake?  How smart can they really be?  How well can they do their jobs without ever having experienced Things Going Very Wrong And Knowing It Is All Your Fault?

[I’m not suggesting we not have any standards. But if we insist on placing public officials on such a high pedestal, I fear we will be governed only by the most talented liars.]

And what does that mean for the rest of us and our jobs?  Am I unfit for my work because of my Big Hairy Screw-up?  Because, seriously, if you knew what it was, you might think so.

Yet that Big Hairy Screw-up (in hindsight, not at the time) was a huge gift.  It informs everything I do now. It actually gives me a certain credibility. It’s not a detriment, but rather the very thing that makes much of what I do possible. 

If Mayor Adams was the sort of guy that habitually exercised poor judgment and never learned from his errors, I wouldn’t be supporting him.  But if he was that sort of guy, he never would have become successful enough to rise to the office of mayor.

We need him and all he has learned from his imperfections.

And we need you, too, in all you have learned from yours.

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2 Responses to “On Being Fit To Do Your Job”


  1. 1 Sociomaitri January 23, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    Yes! I shudder to think of all we’re missing out on, thanks to so much insistence on perfection. Especially when I think of children being exposed to such nonsense. Thanks for spreading your light :)

  2. 2 JoVE January 23, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    I don’t know the precise story, but I agree with your point. Now the asshat that is mayor of my city is another story. Big old, My Way or the Highway guy. Which means our transit people have been on strike for 43 days and counting. And informal talks broke down today. And he is starving them out like this is the 19th century or something. Idiot.

    As my dad said when I told him that the mayor was of the “run the city like a business” school of politics, “What business? GM?”


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