Master capability – AUDIO NSFW

Today, I would like to talk with you guys about promises, accountability, capability, and misery. Whoa! What are you talking about Peter? Promises, accountability, capability, and misery. I came about this particular topic and the reason is because I have been promised things in the past. Have you ever been promised something in your past? They promised you something. They told you that they would deliver on this promise. You assumed them to be truthful. You assumed it to work out. You assumed that they would do right by you. They promised, didn’t they? 

I think all of us, everyone listening has been in a position where a promise has been broken and sometimes deeply broken and deeply wounding. Sometimes these promises are of the most insidious nature in terms of how they are broken. I don’t need to go that far to let your own imagination run wild with this particular idea. I certainly don’t want you to be in a context where you’re thinking about this whole time, where you’re thinking about a promise that has been broken for you. 


Forget about it for just a second. I want you to focus on you and the promises you make or the promises that I make. I want to talk about this cycle. Now, this is something that I have talked about in my previous life as a consultant to large companies is this promise, accountability, capability, and misery cycle. The promises, accountability, capability, and misery cycle. 

This is one of those exercises that I facilitate with leadership at large companies. This is one of those exercises that I created, born out of my own frustration of being an engineer at a Fortune 50 company in my early, early days. I did experience corporate slavery. I was there clocking in, clocking out, sitting in the grey cubicles, wondering where I’m gonna be eating lunch at, and wondering what my homies over in the marketing department are doing. 

This is born out of out of out of a cycle that I had experienced as an engineer. I was often required to give commitments, promises, dates in which things needed to be completed, and thereby, putting me immediately into accountability and responsibility for the often pressured promise to make a date or to complete something in which I knew even as a young child at a fortune 50 company, who in their first job ever knows what they’re doing. 

All I knew what was I could code. They’re asking me to promise things. There’s no way that I could know. Like when are you gonna finish this complex functions? Well 15 minutes? So this forced promised cycle that I was forced into that gets me into having to be accountable and being responsible for what I promised always put me in a rough spot because promises make you accountable. That’s the problem. Another problem with promises is that they’re weak. They’re just words. They’re really just words and and to be accountable to words, I mean that’s where my mind began to wander more. 

What is this thing called a promise? Maybe I should define this thing. Of course going to the DuckDuckGo. I typed in “define: promise”. What did I come up with? A declaration assuring that he or she will or will not do something.  A declaration assuring that someone will or will not do something or a vow. The second entry which is so funny on DuckDuckGo was an example of the unkept political promises. I mean, ain’t that the truth. Ain’t that the truth?

Now, we don’t need to talk about politics, but look have we not been sold the same bill of goods over and over and over and over again? Has not the generation previous, have they not been awoken to the point where they would remind the younger generation that this is a clown fiesta of a political world and that nothing that anyone says, that’s coming out of that boob tube, nothing they say is true. Nothing they say is actually going to happen. 

Because the promises are just words. It’s weak. There’s nothing to it. The accountability therefore, if it’s just words, is week. Promises do not ever, do not ever replace the need for real preparation and real capability. That’s the third part. Promises, accountability, capability, misery. 

This is the cycle that I taught and told to leadership and executives. You force an engineer developer to make a promise. They are accountable to that promise as they continue to break that promise. It’ll be demoralizing. But even more so is if they, thirdly, aren’t capable to do their job effectively, then they become miserable. That’s the cycle. 

Relive this with me guys in my context, my previous context. An engineer is forced to make a promise on a date in which he cannot truly know. He is therefore responsible and accountable to that date, but he also doesn’t have the capability to meet those dates often because of organizational constraints, human constraints, systems constraints, or maybe an independent individual capability issue. Maybe he doesn’t have the capability. There’s a lot of reasons why. 

When you are accountable and you are not capable, you end up being miserable. That’s what I want you guys to think about today. If that is where you are in life, if you are in one of those positions in which you are constantly going through this cycle of:

I kind of have to promise a date. I kind of have to be accountable to this thing that I made up out of my ass. I don’t really know due to the complexities of the system and to the complexities of the culture and due to the complexities of this organization as a whole. I mean how the hell do I really know? 

Well you know what? I’ve been somewhat forced to make a promise therefore I’m accountable and responsible, but I don’t fully have the capabilities to do my job effectively because of Janice, because of Joe, because of Steve, because of Peter, and because of these organizational systems and organizational processes that are so frustrating and so sub-optimized and so terrible in nature that there is no way in hell that I have the capability to meet the promise that I made. 

And now, like I usually am, I am miserable because I have made a promise, I was accountable to, I did not have the capability to fulfill that promise, and I am miserable.

You see this is often the cycle. Not all the time. But this is often the cycle that engineers in large corporations struggled with. For 12 years as a consultant, I spent time working with organization, helping them understand the plight of engineers so that we could reduce organizational deficiencies, reduce organizational process issues, reduce organizational dysfunction. So that the IT—information technology—the development group could be a value add to the organization, not a cost center to the organization. 


And you say, well, Peter then is utterly depressing that you’ve just revealed to me a powerful cycle. Thank you for reminding me of the cycle that I’m in! No, that’s not where I want you to be. One of the number one reasons why individuals within large organizations are not capable of fulfilling the promises that they’ve been forced to make and thereby become miserable; one of the primary reasons why individuals become miserable is because they’re not capable and that they are not fully resourced so that they can be capable.

Now, resourcing could be education. It could be training. It could be time to learn. It could be mentorship internally. It could be shadowing another individual within the company so that they can learn quicker. There’s so many ways to increase capability within an organization, but the organization being as it is often become so focused on the end goals that it forgets the ‘education’ necessary, the ‘preparation’ necessary, the ‘learning’ necessary to be capable to effectively build, create, do this new strategy, tactic, program, initiative of the organization.

One of the greatest things that I have found and I hope this is an encouragement to those that are out there that are looking to create something new, try a side hustle, get promoted, get to the next level. That’s what I’m asking about. If you’re in the position where you want to get to the next level and you don’t want to be in the cycle of forced promises, accountability, lack of capability, and then being miserable in a stuck position, what I would ask you to think about is where can I become capable? 

Where can I grow? What is something that I am naturally drawn to? What is something that I’m naturally good at? What is something that naturally piques my interest so that I have enough energy and maybe just enough momentum to become more capable in that area?

Now, for those that are listening you’ll see that on what I’m really asking you to do is to take one more step towards something to growing yourself. One more step to growing yourself. I hope tomorrow you’ll take another step. 

You see, one of the biggest frustrations of corporate America is the fact—not the fact that you are forced to be and make promises and have accountability of those promises because we’ve made so many of those promises as a corporate America that we are immune to the negative effects of this promise-accountability issue.

The real issue are the last two steps: capability and misery. If you aren’t capable in an organization, you become miserable because you’re constrained all the time. You cannot do what you’ve been tasked or asked to do. 

What is so great about the side hustle, what is so great about entrepreneurship is you can become infinitely capable without constraints because of the education opportunities of today given to us by the Internet. Thanks to the Internet, you can become literally a PhD in almost anything. You literally can. You can go deep in whatever you want and thereby making you more capable. 

Forget the promises. Forget the accountability. Forget the misery. You won’t have misery when you’re extremely capable. If you’re ridiculously like a performing capability, then the misery only comes when you don’t win the Stanley Cup, when you don’t win the trophy because you’re so proficient, you’re so good, you’re ridiculously capable, you’re ultra capable. 

But most of us will never get to that ultra capability to the point where we can have trophies in these types of things. What we can have is a level of mastery of capability so you can begin creating income. If you’re in a corporate system or promises, accountability, lack of capability, and misery because you’re constrained, consider where can you begin becoming more capable. What’s an interest that you have? What’s something where you can spend or invest a little bit more time? What can you improve that one step, that 1% every day? 

Don’t promise yourself because remember promises are cheap. Go and do it. Let me know in the comments what you’re doing.

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