Friday, April 10, 2009

"Tired of shooting too low, so raise the bar high"

Matt Armstrong recently posted a guest post on his blog The post was by Christopher Dufour, and it was titled “Must. Be. AWESOME!” It was an amazing post. As I was reading it, I constantly had this image in my head of Uncle Sam telling the “America's strategic communication / public diplomacy / IO / PSYOP / whatever-you-want-to-call-it apparatus” to cut the shit. That, obviously made me laugh, but the article was just spot-on. Washington’s public diplomacy efforts need to be transformed because they are not doing a whole lot of good. Dufour says it well when he writes the following:

“Too often in government, we settle for the most expedient solution. The cheapest option. The quickest way. The path of least resistance.
We justify it by quoting acquisition regulations. By glomming onto existing authorities. By refusing to challenge the status quo.
It's this attitude that prevents us from accomplishing big goals. Immense objectives. Tremendous challenges. Gi-normous grand strategy. Instead, we choose to do just enough to get our assignments completed to a preexisting or arbitrary standard. This is the culture of Washington.
We shouldn't make this choice. We shouldn't be shooting for "just good enough." Instead, we should be shooting for AWESOME.”

Our government should be settling for anything less than the very best (yet, this is not just a problem within the public diplomacy/strategic communication sector; this is a pandemic that has affected all branches of the government). Although this is not a blog about country music, I think if those working on public diplomacy listened to the song “Settlin’” by Sugarland, they might get a better idea of, not necessarily what they should be doing, but how they should be doing it. In fact, the chorus would suffice and probably accomplish what Dufour and I are seeking:

“I ain't settling for just getting by
I've had enough so so for the rest of my life
Tired of shooting too low, so raise the bar high
Just enough ain't enough this time
I ain't settling for anything less than everything…”

If people working for the government right now are wondering to themselves why they are not succeeding in nearly any of their efforts, particularly the public diplomacy sector, listening to this song—or even reading these lyrics—they might get an idea of what it is that they are not doing. In the words of my high school football coach, “We didn’t come here to mess around! You either do it right or you go home! You give it your all or you go home! You go big or you go home! We have no room on this team for half-assers.”

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