Fixing The Unfixable

Even the strongest, when faced with constant exposure to the elements, can be destroyed. Pick your battles wisely.

It happens from time to time that my inner cynic works its way out and is usually capped with a phrase I like to use in moments like these, “You can’t make chicken salad out of chicken shit.”

Despite being positive and embracing enlightened discussion, there are occasions where no matter what you do, no matter how well-intentioned you are, you can be overwhelmed by the short-sighted.  Call it a failure to appreciate the venom behind those served by the status quo, give the numbers of idiots a certain amount of wiggle-room, and you can be sure that they will find a way to hurt you. People who sincerely want the situation to remain the same and will do anything to keep it that way, will use character assassination, marginalization, threats, and on occasion, harm, to keep real leaders from instituting change.

According to Chongyam Trungpa Rimpoche, “Rishi is a Sanskrit word which refers to the person who constantly leads a straightforward life. The Tibetan word for “rishi” is trangsong, which means “direct” and “upright.” So this term refers to someone who leads a direct and upright life by not introducing new complications into their life situation.”   When a leader who exhibits these traits comes into our lives, we need to embrace them.  However, more often than not, our leaders have flaws, just as we do.  Unfortunately, these flaws are often used by the contrarians to gain a foothold and steer those on the borders to their own side.  If the weak-minded are unwilling to look at what is best for the mission and unable to side with those on the side of right, there isn’t likely any saving them anyway.

There are situations where the individuals involved simply deserve themselves and until a leader can rise to the position and have the necessary backing, there will be no improvement in the condition.  It is at these times when things will continue to be so bad that it will require things to get even worse before someone is given the power to make things right.  In those cases, a total recalculation of culture is required, which won’t happen without a major offensive with enough firepower to establish an indisputable beachhead.  At this level of  failure, however, it often requires people to die first.

There are situations in life where the smart thing to save your self, your sanity, or everything you worked for, is to walk away.  There are situations where trying to save a completely dysfunctional organization is like trying to use a hand-pump to stop the Titanic from going under.  If you find yourself in a situation like this, it requires a serious gut check, and a realization that you can’t fix the unfixable.

There are a few things that you should raise the stakes for, like your faith, your family, and your country.  But when faced with an unwinnable scenario and a lack of resources to fix the problem, sometimes it is best to save what you can save and live to fight on another day.  As a leader, strive to become rishi and when you are met with your failings, try to resolve them through truth and acceptance.  In this you will make yourself less assailable.  But ultimately, even the rockiest and most imposing shore can be destroyed through the constant battering of the waves.  Be resolute, but not to the point of total loss.


  • Jon Marsh says:

    As I delve into your wisdom filled comments, I find myself ashamed of many past actions and/or attitudes and positions I have taken towards fellow brothers and officers who would not or could not allow room for ideas and beliefs other than their own. No doubt I have emptied my venom bank more than a few times through the past 61 years and you are so wise in suggesting there are times that you must save what you can then walk away. Perhaps what one saves and walks away with is life’s gift! Examine your argument for it’s flaws after you have walked away from it; make the necessary corrections if needed, then file it in your book of knowledge. There will always be another leader who will see, understand, and appreciate your ambition. He or she may add more validity to your beliefs or argument or he or she may correct your misconception or belief without prejudice. In any case, thanks Mick !

  • Peter says:

    Not uncommonly repairs are attempted on significant internal structures and the organization is maintained seaworthy by the smallest of margins. If over time these patches are re-enforced then other areas can be considered for continued repairs. If the patches are ignored or overcome then at some point a rescue may be initiated. It is that determination “don’t give up the ship” that comes from a real champion leader.
    Thanks Mick

  • To quote a Sandra Boynton mug, “Don’t let the turkeys get you down.” Or, as an old Captain modified it, “If they do, use a shotgun and make a roast turkey for dinner.”

  • truck6alpha says:

    I am quite the Sandra Boynton fan, too. Know exactly which mug you are talking about (and what Chief to send it to).

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