Three years he said that. ‘Good night, Westley. Good work. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.’ – Westley, The Princess Bride
Have we come through it all yet?
The Cliffs of Insanity? The Fireswamp? The Pit of Despair?
I think we have. And I think we got through it the way people get through things like this: by, first, believing we could; second, telling each other that it was never really that bad (even though, my God, it was); third, by having fun with it; and finally, by just being bad ass about the whole thing.
You know by now which one of them you are. You’re a Giant, a Spaniard, a Dread Pirate Roberts, or a Princess (a Survivor Princess, of course).
You also know which ones your bosses were: Vizzini the Mastermind (“Do you want me to send you back to where you were? Unemployed? IN GREENLAND?”), Prince Humperdinck (“Consider me as an alternative to suicide?”), the Six-Fingered Man (“I think that’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard. How marvelous”), or The Albino (“Don’t even think about trying to escape”).
It was bad in the beginning. So bad, we got in the boat with … well … them.
It didn’t seem like such a bad idea at the time. Even though those people were stupid. They couldn’t form a coherent sentence to save their lives; they were forever falling for one big word at a time.
Inigo: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
But let’s be honest: Those places we worked were all sick on the inside. We may not have known it at first, because things stayed so bad for so long, and it can feel good to at least have someplace to be. Still, people who really thrive in corporations are not like us.
Corporate types have been, are now, and will always be those who would rather buy hot new stuff, try to find skilled contractors to do work they do not understand, or pay too much for something shiny, than ever make anything themselves. These are one-idea-a-year people.
Vizzini: The minute his HEAD is in view, HIT IT WITH THE ROCK!!
The Cliffs of Insanity
Who helped you through your first really bad project? Who got you up that sheer rock face? You remember: You did.
Where was your boss? Did that person, that person’s manager, and HR (or whatever worthless sub-organization you may have appealed to for help) help you scale it? Or were all of those people just sort of checking your progress, asking for status, waiting for you to get the hell up?
Worse … were they the dead weight on your back? Counting on the results of your vertical climb?
On the upside, did someone lower a rope? Can you find that person here? Return the favor now.
Westley: A few more steps and we’ll be safe in the fireswamp.
Buttercup: We’ll never survive!
Westley: Nonsense. You’re only saying that because no one ever has.
Of course you’ll survive. Of course your former employer did you no lasting harm. Of course Kool-Aid doesn’t stay in your system for any longer than, oh … four, five months.
And what are the three terrors of what you currently do, after all?
Insane taxes. Of course you can come up with twelve hundred dollars for taxes. You do what makes the money. Work a few more hours, that’s nothing. You can do what you do standing on your head, and what’s so hard about working standing on your head?
Getting sick. A few of us got together and passed health care reform for precisely this reason. AH hahahahaaaa! Suck it, Blue Shield!
Losing your contract. If you know what you’re doing at work, you are already in the minority. They need you more than you need them. Just make sure you back up your stuff on your jump drive every day. Conduct yourself with honesty and kindness in business — yes, every day. The world outside is bigger and kinder than you know.
The Pit of Despair
… Or as I call it, January. (I once worked with that person up there.)
This is the bully, and the bully wants you hurt. In corporations, bullies don’t just thrive; they swarm. Pain makes the bully happy. Don’t show pain, don’t show fear, don’t even show concern; don’t show anything.
Once you have met a bully in any company, you have met a company that breeds them. Getting out is good. I made it. So will you.
Finally: Plan the secret to your succession. I assure you, there is one:
Inspiring the Necessary Fear
Westley: I myself am often surprised at life’s little quirks. …
[The Dread Pirate] Roberts decided something. He said, “All right, Westley, I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.”
Three years he said that. ‘Good night, Westley. Good work. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.’
It was a fine time for me. I was learning to fence, fight, anything anyone would teach me. And then it happened …
‘I am not the Dread Pirate Roberts,’ he said.
‘My name is Ryan. I inherited the ship from the previous Dread Pirate Roberts, just as you will inherit it from me. The man I inherited it from was not the real Dread Pirate Roberts either. His name was Cummerbund …
The name was the important thing for inspiring the necessary fear. You see, no one would surrender to the Dread Pirate Westley. … Once the crew believed, he left the ship, and I have been Roberts ever since.
You don’t have to be a pirate. You don’t have to be a guy who walks around killing people. But perhaps you do have to be someone who no longer says to her kid on the weekend, “I’m glad you liked the food, because on Monday I’m gonna get canned.”
Even if you do get canned: It’s your ship now. There is only one you; you are more necessary than the people who had to pay someone to locate you. You will always be able to do what they do not know how to do. You are the Dread Programmer Mandy.
Go. Plunder something.
Storming the Castle
Even if you do get canned: It’s the big fear, I know. It’s still in so many of us.
And what happens if you do? What then?
You’re only mostly dead. It’s April, and beautiful out. Laugh.
Hey, it worked for Miracle Max.