Hey audio buffs I went back and recorded this, my voice finally recovered.
A Low-Calibre Lee Harvey Oswald
When I was a vet student I was pretty obnoxious. It was a culture of people who identified as too irresponsible to be doctors. And 18-year-old guys are a hazard to themselves and others. Particularly when many of them are country lads unleashed on the big city for the first time.
There was a law student who annoyed us by his constant diligent studies, on all-day display at his desk, framed inside a floor-to-ceiling window.
He was a real business-slacks, side-part, study-on-Saturday-night guy, and – I’m conscious this doesn’t sound very good writing it now – a friend and I would take turns shooting him with a BB rifle from a hidden vantage point atop a nearby building.
Not enough firepower to break skin or anything, but certainly enough to break his concentration on the books. I’m struggling to think of anything funnier from that period of my life.
Of course with that mindset, he became a Supreme Court judge at an absurdly young age.
So I’d best steer clear of that pizza-themed peak of the state legal system.
This minor assault was a major dick move on my behalf, but I’d like to think that by age 22 I was a functioning adult. Yet last week’s media was packed with people who’ve carried the eighteen-year-old guy mindset well toward middle age.
Should You Do That Questionable Thing?
Here’s a simple yardstick to guide your behaviour when your age starts with a 2 or more. If you’re not sure if you should do something, ask yourself:
How would this look if it was written down and published?
Or if you had to explain it aloud to a room full of people who are not your usual circle of friends?
If things turn ugly, as they can, could you honestly say: hey, I made what I thought was the right call at the time, we all make mistakes.
Or would you have to leave town and go into witness protection because it looks so bad for you?
Unless you were missing the entire remorse part of your brain.
The Ben Roberts-Smith Show
Let’s wade straight in at the deep end: the Ben Roberts-Smith defamation case.
Each day he drops a new piece of testimony – often at the questioning of his own legal team – that raises questions on whether he’s ever managed to see more than ten minutes into the future.
It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet of antics that I would not want to be public knowledge, if I were the star of a court case I brought myself.
Hiring a detective to follow his ex-girlfriend to make sure she terminated a pregnancy.
Dousing his computer hard drive in petrol and burning it. After getting a letter from lawyers asking him not to delete any files.
Denying he drank from an actual prosthetic leg from an Afghan shot dead by his squadron, but confirming he owned two glasses “shaped like the prosthetic leg with ‘2 Squadron’ engraved on it”.
Burying evidence in the back yard.
Don’t do that, it’s what dogs do.
The “Winged Penis” Trap
Not questioning your own behaviour leads to this kind of thing:
Winged penis. As an ex-brand namer I’ve spent a lot of time in the trademark system, and I’ve not seen those two words together before.
I know it’s not pivotal to the case. But when you’re deep in the “hide stuff” mindset, people are going to bring the issue up just to make you say it out loud:
“Yes, I have a winged penis on file.”
Suck Up, Punch Down At Sony
Then there’s the Sony music saga, as chairman Denis Handlin stepped down after being there since the 70s. Read this story and tell me you don’t feel like taking a shower in Dettol.
It’s a decades-long saga of old, crusty guys treating female staff as objects and playthings.
What makes it worse is the personal double standard. I went to a dinner a few years ago to commemorate some kind of anniversary for that guy. All night, one giant global star after another appeared on the video screens delivering touching tributes. Basically saying he was the best, most charming person they’d ever worked with.
Then you read of his alleged behaviour toward staff, and the culture he lorded over for eons, and marvel at how they kept it under cover for so long.
We’ve all worked with people whose motto is Suck Up, Punch Down, and this is that at an Olympic level.
I’m sure if you asked any of the Sony bigwigs they’d blame their downfall on today’s cancel culture.
Rather than perhaps taking some responsibility, or admitting their handsy habits aren’t OK now because they were never OK.
There Are No Secrets
The how would this look test doesn’t just cover media fodder like Roberts-Smith or Sony.
It applies to everything you do at work, the calls you make on how you treat staff and customers.
With endless electronic surveillance, there are no secrets any more.
Assume every email you write could be published on your website. (If you need to work off some frustration, do it over the phone).
Telling someone ‘don’t tell a soul’ is accelerant on the gossip flames.
Like managers who say: “I’m giving you a pay rise to stop you leaving, but don’t tell the others.”
Trying to keep track of cover-ups and dodgy stories you’ve told takes up heaps of space in your brain.
Act like everyone’s watching, and you’ll get more done and feel better about yourself all day.
Shout out to Fionn and James, the Undisruptable legal panel who I can email on a weekend going ‘uh … is there a Statute of Limitations on low-key sniper offences?’ and they help keep me out of prison. Love you guys, I hope our association won’t affect your careers.
If you’re new here my book Undisruptable is out now on Penguin Random House, it appeared nationally in the daily papers last week, get it here.
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