If It Does Not Feel Right it is Probably Wrong

Oct. 31, 2006
Have you ever found yourself in the midst of a project, or some other sort of thing you had done many times before, and then suddenly felt uncomfortable about what it was that you were doing?

Lately there have been a number of issues which have brought a small cloud of gloom and doom over my house here in the Village of Adelphia. Maybe worry would be a better term, or perhaps even concern. One issue involves a project upon which I have been laboring. The other involves my health. Now I know that I should be more concerned about my health, but it is this project that has just become a real bear to handle.

Anyway, I want to share these things with you. These issues have caused me to pause and ponder the manner in which I am living my life. My life is by no means perfect however, I keep good notes. In this way I can discuss what is happening to me and how I react to it, in hopes that maybe it can help you deal with the alligators which are in the swamp you are attempting to drain.

Let me lay this out simply. Have you ever found yourself in the midst of a project, or some other sort of thing you had done many times before, and then suddenly felt uncomfortable about what it was that you were doing? I know that this has happened to me on a number of occasions during my career as a firefighter, officer, or consultant. However, it has never been this bad.

There were times during my career in Newark where I found myself in places not of my own making or choosing. Many were the times where I felt uncomfortable. Not that I was breaking a law or violating a regulation. No, I just found myself to be in a place where I felt I should not have been.

It is never a good thing when you are feeling disquieted within, because of the doubts which come rushing into you mind, along with the bad feelings. I saw a particularly telling quotation in my local newspaper recently. It caught my eye instantly and riveted itself into my mind's eye. Let me share it with you.

"To ignore your conscience is to invite trouble."

Given the wide array of political garbage being spewed from our televisions into our homes this election season, perhaps this is a phrase that should be branded onto the forehead of every individual running for elected office. It is also a critical bit of advice for people who provide consulting advice to clients in the fire service (or in any field of endeavor for that matter).

There is another way of saying this that makes it even more relevant and easily identified for each of us. I say to you that if something feels wrong, do not do it. If something really feels wrong to you, then it is probably something you should refrain from doing. If it feels wrong, it probably is wrong. This is particularly true if it is something which is patently offensive to the instincts by which we are supposed to live our lives.

Now my friends let me take a few moments to describe my own current quandary. I am in the midst of a project now that has started to feel wrong: really wrong. I have done scores of similar projects over the past quarter of a century and of course I am no stranger to controversy. However this is the first time that everything about the project has assumed an aura of wrongness. I now find that there are players in this equation who really have no business adding their voices to the fray.

As is my way, I shall avoid mentioning names and places. However this whole assignment has so thoroughly upset me that I have chosen to consider withdrawing from the project. I have invested far more time and effort in it than the retainer which I received for my efforts would justify, but money is not an issue here. I am sure that those about whom I am writing will see through the verbiage and consider the depth and range of my quandary.

I am at a point in my consulting career where I am entertaining doing something that I have never done before. I may well be on the verge of sending the client's retainer funds back to them with a warning. The agency in question desperately needs help, however the environment is strewn with a series of potential landmines, both obvious and hidden.

Frankly my friends, I think that these folks do not need a consultant. They need a magician. As a dear friend and Brother Mason said to me the other day, "they want a political solution to what is essentially a technical problem."

These folks retained the service of my firm in hopes of creating a solution to a series of serious technical problems. I was asked to perform a municipal fire protection review. This is something I do several times a year. However, in this case there was a distinct difference. The client hired me about 10 years too late.

A great deal of money has been spent with no real objective in mind. I was asked to come in and assess the situation. Normally this sort of thing is the meat and potatoes of my consulting practice. Like I said, I have worked on this sort of assignment scores of times over the past quarter of a century.

Unfortunately there are those people in this instance who do not have the best interests of the fire department at the heart of their being. There are those whose soul function appears to be to harass my client into holding down their expenses. I could be wrong, but no one amongst this select group seems to have any background within the fire service. They just do not want to spend money.

What set my heart a whirling was a threatening phone call. No, not the kind where Tony Soprano tells "Pauly Walnuts" to make the big guy disappear. No my friends, this was a different sort of call. I was told in no uncertain terms that unless I wrote a report that satisfied this outside group, my work would be distained and ignored. Lest you think I am kidding, I have recorded this message off of my machine to remind me of the agenda that some people have in life.

I have tossed the ball into the court of my clients. I laid down the necessary parameters for my continued work in their community. They desperately need my opinions, comments, and directions. However, I am not going to go into a project and subject myself to the threats of people with an agenda.

I tell you this story for one simple reason. If something does not seem right, then it probably is not right. I do not want to sully my reputation by having people say that I take jobs and write reports that are pre-ordained by my clients. That is not me. It never was, nor will it ever be. All that is involved here is money.

If you recall, at the beginning of this article I mentioned that a couple of things were working on my psyche. I shared the work. Now let me get just a bit more personal. I have not been feeling like myself lately. There is nothing major going on with me (or at least I hope there isn't), but I seem to be tired all the time.

Last week I finally bit the bullet and went to my physician. After listing my feelings and symptoms, I paused a moment and waited for her response. God bless her, she sure was direct. She noted that my blood pressure was up a bit and suspected the same for my blood sugar. She also noted that I had not only ignored her advice to lose weight, but had in fact gone in the opposite direction.

I then mentioned an incident which happened during a speaking assignment in Alaska last year. I also outlined the pressures from the assignment of which I wrote earlier in this commentary, as well as the many other exciting things going on in my life. She listened, nodded her head, and jotted down a number of notes.

Then she leaned toward me and gave me a simple, but direct warning. She told me that I was at a crossroads place in my life. She outlined the path that I was taking with its negative consequences. She then outlined the path that she would prefer I travel. She asked nothing unreasonable of me. The good doctor merely stated the obvious.

I am in the midst of a series of tests now. Hopefully they will find nothing is really wrong. This is a case where another variant of the rule I applied earlier also has meaning. If something feels wrong, then maybe something is wrong.

My friends, I am having just a bit too much fun to check out of this hotel yet. I have a couple of books which should be out before Christmas. One is about my Road Trip and the other is a series of monologues about my view of leadership. I will let you know when and where you can find these tomes.

Let me close with a simple request. I need your help. I ask for your prayers that the Supreme Architect of the Universe will shine His guiding light upon the proper road I am to travel. Heaven knows that I need all of the help I can get.

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