My Family (a long time ago)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

It Is What It Is

“It is what it is.”

I have heard people say that so many times that I think I will strangle the next person who says it, mostly because of the reason it is said. You can say “It is what it is” (abbreviated from now on as “IIWII”) and mean that this is how things are right now, many times through no fault of your own, but we’re going to look at things and see if we can make some changes and make them better. However, that’s not usually how it is meant. Instead, when most people say “IIWII” they are saying this is how it is now, we’re not going to try to figure it out or make things better, and it’s never going to change, so why bother. That’s what I hear the most.

This phrase gets tossed around a lot at work when we’re under the gun to get something done. We have a day or two to get a project completed, but the work is going to take twice that amount of time. When this fact gets brought to the attention of the powers-that-be, their response is usually “IIWII”. It doesn’t matter that this happens not just once in a while, but almost every project, because “IIWII”. That we could take a look at how we do projects, change how we estimate the length of time of tasks, or change the number of people assigned to a project don’t seem to be options.

Just think about the “IIWII” attitude for a moment. What if people in the past had had that attitude?

We’d still be reading by candlelight in our darkened homes because Thomas Edison would have never figured out how to make a light bulb work. I can just hear someone that was working with him saying, “Tom, don’t be ridiculous. You’ve tried so many times and nothing works. It is what it is.” There’d be no streetlights, no overhead lights, no lamps to read by, no lights of any kind.

We’d still be riding horses and bikes, or walking, to get around because Henry Ford would have never figured out how to mass produce an affordable vehicle. I don’t know, maybe that would be better in some ways. However, I watched enough westerns on Saturday afternoon and enough episodes of 
“Little House on the Prairie” to know that automobiles are a faster and more comfortable way to get around. After a few failures trying to build a vehicle, maybe his friends and partners told him “IIWII”.    

Advances in medicine, computers, cars, trains, planes, etc., never would have happened if the “IIWII” attitude prevailed. People would still think that Earth was the center of the universe and that it was flat. Not a pretty picture, is it? That’s why I can’t stand it when I’m given the “IIWII” attitude when it wouldn’t take much to change things to what it could be.

I’m glad my parents didn’t have that attitude when I was younger. First, they taught us to do the best we could do in everything, to aim high. That attitude taught us to seek excellence in what we did, not just go along with the status quo. Second, they taught us to question things, which helped us to identify where it was possible to make improvements. Third, they taught us that when we wanted something we needed to persevere. Let’s be real, most things that have any value only come with hard work. Probably most importantly, they taught us how to communicate with others in ways that don’t make them want to give us a smack upside the head. Sometimes how you present something is more important than what you’re saying, frustrating as that may be. They could have easily taken the easy way out and told us to just go along with whatever we were told, to never question anything, to strive for mediocrity so that if we didn’t reach our high goals we wouldn’t be disappointed, to give it a try or two and then forget about it, all in the name of “IIWII”. I’m so grateful they didn’t do that because I would not be the person I am today.

I think that instead of quietly getting ticked off, I’m going to have a new response for “IIWII”. I’m not going to just accept that response anymore without at least a quick discussion. In certain areas, I’m tired of the way things are and I won’t just go quietly. It may be that it is what it is, but it’s not what it could be. It could be better if we took a look and maybe made some changes. I think it’s worth the time and effort.

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