FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #72: “Moms are a lot like CEOs. Only with more responsibility, longer hours and less pay.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 28th, 2011

Thinking and Deciding

Boy, do people like to demonize CEOs.  I mean, they really hate them.  These chief executive officers.  Overpaid and underworked.  And then there are all those stock options.  Making them bazillionaires.  By increasing the value of the company to shareholders.  Without a whit of concern for the little guy on the factory floor doing the work.  It just isn’t fair.  Sitting in their plush offices.  Flying in their private planes.  Staying in 5-star hotels.  Living in mansions while vacationing on some island paradise that they might in fact own.  Living champagne and caviar lives.  For doing what?

Actually, for doing quite a lot.  Mostly thinking.  And deciding.  Making decisions that will impact every employee of the company.  Now.  And years into the future.  Decisions that will determine if there is even a future.  For a corporation is like a ship.  It is large.  Complex.  And has momentum.  It can’t turn on a dime.  One decision today could steer that ship into open waters for clear sailing.  Or into an iceberg. 

The world is a changing place.  Nothing is static.  Including the economy.  And consumer spending.  For the consumer can be a fickle person.  We know what they’re buying today.  But no one knows what they’ll be buying tomorrow.  And that’s the problem CEOs face.  The things they’re making today will sell tomorrow.  Or later.  In fact, factories they build today will make things that will sell years later.  So the decision to build that factory had better been a good one.  Based on some good market research.  Objective analysis.  With no personal prejudices involved.  Such as laughing at new innovation.  Saying there’s no way it will replace the current industry standard.  Such as a phone company not getting in to the cellular business because everyone will always have a landline into their house.  In fact, they’ll have a few.  One for their phone.  One for their fax machine.  And one for their dial-up modem.  “And what could ever change that?” said the fat-cat phone executive while chomping on a cigar.  Shortly before the board of directors fired him.

Pay not Commensurate with Responsibilities

Moms are lot like CEOs.  They, too, have to look long-term.  And it starts with choosing a husband.  When they are ready to settle down and raise a family.  And they’re not going to waste their time with men who don’t want to settle down.  Like Beyoncé says, “if you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it” (Single Ladies).  It’s no longer about dating for fun.  It’s now about finding a life partner.  And women will choose carefully.  They’re looking for someone with a good job.  Someone who is responsible.  Someone they can trust.  Someone who is healthy and will sire healthy children.  Someone who is strong and self-confident.  Who can be both a provider and protector.  Perhaps someone who goes to church.  So they can bring their children up with strong morals.  They’ll start choosing their dates based on these criteria.  Then love can enter the equation.  Which it does.  And it’s often a deeper and more long-lasting love.  Because attraction is based on all of these things.  Not just physical appearance.

This decision is important to be a good mom.  Because it will affect the next 20+ years of her life.  And it will affect the lives of her children.  So she has to weigh a lot of things in making this decision.  Like a CEO’s vetting process choosing his or her officers.  Because it’s for the long haul.  She’ll work 7 days a week.  And must be available at all times of the day.  Even if she is sick.  Like a CEO.  Only NOT with pay commensurate with her responsibilities.  Unlike a CEO.  And those responsibilities include raising her children.  And managing the household.  While her husband works.  Old school.  Like Paula Cole says.  “I will raise the children if you pay all the bills” (Where have all the Cowboys Gone).

A CEO has a chief financial officer (CFO) to manage the finances.  Mom just wear another hat.  And manages the finances, too.  The husband works.  But he gives his wife the paycheck.  For although his earnings pay the bills, she writes the checks.  And balances the budget.  Which often take a little finesse.  Because there isn’t a lot of money in the beginning.  And raising children and owning a house can be very expensive.  So managing cash-flow becomes a fast learned skill.  Because groceries, school supplies, clothes, utilities, insurance, mortgage and taxes don’t all come due in pay periods equal to the amount of the paycheck.  Which means she has to put a little aside each pay period (like a sinking fund in corporate America) to pay the big things that come due at various times throughout the year.  Or tap her line of credit (i.e., credit card), making cuts in the monthly budget to service the new debt and pay down the high-interest loan as quickly as possible.  Oh, and she cooks and cleans, too.

“Are you wearing Clean Underwear?”

Some may belittle the classical housework of being a mom.  The cooking and cleaning.  But when raising children they can be the most important of her responsibilities.  Of all the animal kingdom, human offspring are the most helpless.  And they’re helpless for the longest time.  It takes 18 years before they leave the nest.  And they’re growing that whole time.  Fueling that growth with three meals a day.  Two if they buy lunch at school during the school year.  This is something a CEO doesn’t have to worry about with employees.  Being accountable for everything they eat or drink.  And not getting them sick in the process for food preparation is a dangerous business.  Especially when working with raw chicken.  So she’s health inspector.  And dietician.  Managing their growth with the family doctor.  Making sure they eat their vegetables.  Drink their milk.  Because it all matters.  To make sure their bones are strong and healthy.  And to have strong immune systems.  For the old maxim is true.  We are what we eat.  Which is a challenge for a mother.  Because kids don’t like eating healthy.  Or being clean, for that matter.

Yes, it’s true.  Mothers want their kids to wear clean underwear. But it’s not just to save them the embarrassment should their child be in an accident where someone may see his or her dirty underwear.  (Well, maybe a little.)  It’s because poor hygiene kills.  And there are few things more unhygienic than pooping.  These are some nasty germs.  They cause outbreaks of cholera when they contaminate drinking water supplies.  And cause E. coli food poisoning when transferred to our food supply (that’s why there are signs in restaurant bathrooms saying that all employees must wash their hands so they don’t kill anyone with their food).  Nasty stuff.  So mothers are fanatical about bathing their kids.  Making sure they wash their hands after using the bathroom.  And that they wear clean underwear.  Also not to pick up food that fell on the floor (that 5-second rule is a dad rule).  Or put things in their mouths that they shouldn’t.  And they’ll keep all their cleaning and plumbing supplies locked up and out of reach of their children.  Their medicines, too.  Because kids like to put things in their mouths.  And will eat or drink anything they find that isn’t a vegetable on a plate.

As protective as she may be, her child will most probably get sick.  Some other kid may sneeze in her child’s face.  Or some other kid may not wash his or her hands after using the bathroom.  Or use a door knob when they have a cold.  Or pass the measles to her child.  Then mother becomes nurse.  Carefully administering medicines.  Emptying barf buckets.  Cleaning her child and the bedding when he or she misses the barf bucket.  All the while cooking and cleaning.  And managing the household. 

Leading by Example

And the responsibilities never end.  There’re good manners to teach.  Honesty.  Morality.  Good behavior.  Inside the home.  And when out of the home.  The mother instructs constantly.  And sets a good example.  Dad, too.  When the kids are around they’ll watch their language.  Because they don’t want their kids to have potty mouths.  And Mom and Dad will treat each other with respect.  Because they want their children to grow up as ladies and gentlemen.  For boys to treat girls with respect.  Not to hit them.  Or objectify them.  And no matter what Mom may have done on spring break when she was in school, she will not do anything now that will set a bad example for her daughter.  Or give ideas to her son.  Like getting girls drunk so they make bad decisions is okay.

This is something moms share with CEOs.  Leading by example.  Because perception in the corporate world can make or break a company.  That’s why they have zero-tolerance policies for bad behavior.  Because a reputation of bad behavior (racist, sexist, hate speech, etc.) will give a corporation bad press that can take years to overcome.  Especially if it’s a high-level manager.  Or an officer.  In fact, it’s worse at that level because of the vetting process.  Like choosing a husband, these people are chosen for the long haul.  And bad behavior in these people reflects poorly on the CEO.  Because he or she chose them.   If your CFO is arrested for tax fraud it shows that you are a poor judge of character.  And have a poor handle on your business operations.  And if you’re CFO is committing tax fraud under your nose, you probably are doing a poor job.  And no doubt the board of directors will be looking for a new CEO.  As one of the best ways to get over a scandal is by cleaning house.

Being a CEO is hard.  So is being a mom.  There’s a lot of on the job training.  Which is more of just figuring things out as you go along.  You learn from your mistakes.  All the while being overworked.  And underpaid.  Working horrible hours.  With little sleep.  On call 24/7.  With no breaks or vacations.  Yes, there may be family vacations.  But Mom will still be working on those vacations.  Same responsibilities.  Just a different setting.  At least the CEO has a staff to handle things while on vacation.  At best a mom gets a quiet bubble bath while the kids are at school.  Or a quiet moment on the toilet.  Safe behind a closed door.  For a few quiet minutes. 

Moms and CEOs have their differences.  But their responsibilities are the same.  A corporation’s success depends on the good decisions of its CEO.  Just as the success of a family depends on the good decisions of Mom.

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LESSONS LEARNED #70: ” There is no such thing as ‘consensus’ in science.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 16th, 2011

State of the Art Medicine – Balancing the Four Humors

Early science was sometimes by consensus.  Arrived at by some guesses that were almost educated.  Early medical science, for example.  The human body was and is a complex thing.  Most of our knowledge was based on the excretions we observed coming from the body.  Someone with a cold had a runny nose.  Someone with a fever sweated.  Someone with an upset tummy vomited.  And, of course, there’s poop and pee.  If you didn’t excrete enough of either there’s probably something wrong with you.  Even today we look at our poop and pee.  For things like blood.  Or other abnormal secretions.  Because that can be a problem.  So the human body is a plethora of excretions.  Or fluids.  Each telling a story.

Early medicine broke these fluids down into 4 basic fluids.  The four humors.  Black bile, yellow bile, phlegm and blood.  A healthy body had the four humors in balance.  A sick body had an imbalance.  Too little of one.  Or too much of another.  So early medicine looked at putting the four humors back into balance.  Either through putting humors into the body.  As in herbs or food.  Or taking humors out of the body.  As in bloodletting or inducing vomiting.  Or applying a poultice.  Out with the bad.  In with the good.

This was state of the art medicine at its time.  They even used it on George Washington in 1799.  The most important man in America.  He was making his rounds on horseback, inspecting his plantation one day in the rain and snow.  Got a bit of a sore throat.  Came in that evening for dinner.  Didn’t change out of his wet clothes so as not to inconvenience his guests.  The next day his throat was worse.  And he had a fever.  He also had trouble swallowing.  Today we’d see our doctor and ask for some antibiotics.  Before antibiotics, though, you tried to balance the four humors.  So they bled Washington.  State of the art medicine back then.  Washington died 6 days later.  Having never recovered from his sore throat.  Despite using what was then the consensus for the finest medical care.  Bleeding.

The Fight against both Smallpox and the Medical Consensus

Interestingly, George Washington was a healthy man.  He lived longer than most Washington men.  Even survived a run in with Smallpox in his youth.  Which makes his death from something starting out as a sore throat sadder still.  Because Smallpox was a killer.  People feared it like the plague.  In time, though, people found a way to make themselves immune to the disease.  By infecting themselves with a little of it.

England learned of this procedure from the Turks.  Lady Mary Wortley Montagu brought the practice (variolation) back from Turkey.  The king volunteered subjects for experimentation in England.  Which proved to be a success.  Even though there was a risk of death (about 1 in 1,000).  And during the procedure people were highly contagious.  Still, it was a whole lot better than dying from the pox.  So the Royal physician inoculated the Royal family.  And the practice slowly spread.  African slaves were doing it, too, and brought the practice to the New World and taught the procedure to the Reverend Cotton MatherEdward Jenner conducted further experiments.  Found a safer way to inoculate using cowpox.  Without the higher death rate.  Or with people being highly contagious during the process.  And the Smallpox vaccination was born.

But the acceptance of inoculation wasn’t easy.  The accepted medical practice did not include such a radical procedure.  Those in medicine belittled the procedure and anyone practicing it.  The medical consensus was that these were just some misguided people playing God who were going to turn people into cows after injecting them with cowpox.  But fear of dying can change minds.  Especially when there is a Smallpox epidemic in your country.  Which there was during the American Revolutionary War.  More soldiers died from Smallpox than were killed in battle.  A lot more.  More than half of the army.  Soldiers inoculated themselves using the puss from the pustules on infected soldiers.  John Adams’ wife, Abigail, inoculated her own children.  The inoculations saved the army.  And many of the cities.  And it was the successful fight against Smallpox that allowed the fight for independence to proceed.  Thanks to those who went against the consensus.

Contagions, not Bad Air, make you Sick

Part of the reason the disease was so contagious was because of poor sanitary conditions.  Soldiers cramped together in barracks.  Or in hospitals.  Crowded cities.  A lot of sick people in contact with a lot of healthy people got a lot of healthy people sick.  Some understood this and tried to stay away from sick people.  But they didn’t really understand germs.  They tried to stay away from sick people so they wouldn’t catch what they had.  By breathing the same air.  Not necessarily the breath they were exhaling.  But the air they were breathing in that made them sick in the first place.

A common medical opinion was that ‘bad’ air caused illness.  Thomas Jefferson believed this.  That’s why he hated leaving Monticello during the summer.  When the tidewater air was ‘bad’.  The coastal towns.  Where the government met.  He hated going to New York, Philadelphia and Washington.  Because they all had ‘bad’ air during the summer.  And that ‘bad’ air could give you malaria.  Of course, it wasn’t the air.  It was the mosquitoes who liked the marshy tidewater areas.  And understanding this was the first step in (almost) eradicating malaria.

Benjamin Franklin didn’t believe in ‘bad’ air.  Well, not the kind other people worried about.  He didn’t believe cold air gave anyone a cold.  Or the flu.  No one knew anything about germs or viruses yet, but he had an open mind.  And constantly questioned things.  He was, after all, America’s greatest scientist.  Why did he not get sick when traveling in the coldest of winters?  Yet he could catch cold in a warm and comfortable room when someone with a cold was in that same room?  The answer was obvious.  Bad air.  Created by the sick person exhaling their sickness into a room with no fresh air.  Whereby he had no choice but to breathe in this same air.  A contagion spread the sickness.  Not cold air.  Sure of this he would forever sleep with the window open.  Even during winter.  Even when sharing a bed with a sick John Adams during a diplomatic mission to discuss possible terms with the British on Staten Island to stop the rebellion.   There was no room at the inn.  So they had to share.  And they discussed Franklin’s theory.  Adams had a cold and wanted to close the window.  Franklin didn’t want to catch Adams’s cold and insisted on leaving the window open.  Adams returned to bed while listening to Franklin opine.  And fell asleep.  With the window open.  He was no sicker in the morning.  And Franklin did not catch his cold.

Before Modern Science there was Consensus and Bad Medicine

Poor sanitary conditions and a lack of understanding of germs killed a lot of people.  During the American Civil War, doctors would go from patient to patient without washing their hands.  After an amputation, they just wiped their saw on their apron before moving on to the next patient.  These were approved medical procedures.  The consensus was that it wasn’t necessary to wash your hands.  Or your saw.  And the result was an epidemic of gangrene.  And high mortality rates in Civil War hospitals.  Louis Pasteur‘s work on the germ theory of disease began to change things.  And Joseph Lister introduced the modern sterile and antiseptic operating room.

We were making progress.  Modern medicine was coming into being.  But we were still doing a lot of questionable things.  Even though it was accepted by the medical community.  Sometimes we just didn’t know any better.  Like giving people heavy doses of toxic mercury.  Then there were things where we should have known better.  Like sticking an ice pick through someone’s eye socket into the brain to sever the connections to and from the prefrontal cortex during the popular lobotomy craze of the early 20th century.  We don’t do these once accepted medical practices anymore. 

Before modern science and modern surgical tools and equipment there was little more than consensus in medicine.  No one knew anything.  So they started by guessing.  And if a guess won a popular vote, it became an accepted medical procedure.  For it was the consensus of the medical community.  Which until real science came along was the best they could do.  Thankfully, today, we have real science.  We no longer have to guess.  Or win popularity contests.  Which has greatly reduced the amount of bad medicine in our lives.  Thanks to those lone voices in the crowd.  The few who dared to go against the consensus.

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