Friday, 13 August 2010

Red Herrings


I was probably 35 years old before I ever used the term "red herring". I had some Lieutenant in front of me and trying to lay out five issues related to a problem. At some point in the conversation, I stopped him....raised my finger....and said for the first time in my life ever...."your last two comments are red herrings". I then proceeded to lay out the real problems and the solution. He quietly agreed and our problem was solved in short fashion.

From that point on, I probably used the comment of "red herring" around six times a year. I realized after a while that once I pulled the "red herring" comment....the conversation and the problem came to a dramatic end within two minutes.

Since coming to the Pentagon....I've come to realize that I'm now using "red herring" on a weekly basis.

I'm finding myself tossing "red herring" out and wondering if I'm overusing the expression but in each case....there's this confusion over excess facts or facts without relevance. I'm locked into a personality trait where I want only facts on the table and to argue only over those. My common cause....is a simplistic solution that isn't written by Einstein.

In eight months, I have probably changed.

I've been without a car and done this public transportation thing on a daily basis. I actually like buses now.

I've seen the glitter of metropolitan living and frankly have a distaste for it.

I've come to miss moderate summers and the German 'mist' that I used endure for days at a time.

And this 'red herring' business is probably driving my co-workers crazy because I'm not giving them a chance to argue to the ninth degree. At least, I suspect that.