Into the Great Wide Open

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers made music like the last of the true believers. They gave back to their audience what they took from Rock & Roll themselves . . . the best of everything.

“If you don’t run, you rust”

It was as if they had looked at all the possibilities Rock had to offer, and built their music out of only the best parts.

The Right has better ideas on some things and the Left better on others.

If I wanted the latter to win the next election, but the former had a solution that would put them in the White House instead . . .

It would be unthinkable for me to not support it.

Without Passion or Prejudice mentions a new colleague’s question he had in the interview:

You’ve been in IT for over 20 years — you must have a lot of stories to tell

In that alone, I sized him up in seconds — and I was spot-on. From his first words on the job, he let me know how eager he was to learn, and that he’s always in favor of the best idea.

I couldn’t agree more

I told him of this key moment starting out in my career. I’ll never forget pausing to consider what a colleague told me about his coding convention.

Just walking along the hallway, I stopped to ask him about it and he said, “That’s just the way I was taught.”

So his way is more organized, easier to follow, and cleaner to work with. What are my reasons for why my way is better?

I don’t have any good ones?

So I’m in meeting with my new colleague and he showed me some of his code. I had a suggestion on formatting that would make it much easier to follow.

Even knowing how open-minded he is, I was still delicate in delivering my idea.

The second he saw that I was trying to be soothing in my suggestion, he said:

I got it — it’s clearly better

It was self-evident

No convincing needed — he saw it and that was enough.

That’s exactly how I developed my style in the first place — coupling my own ideas with the best I came across in others.

That spirit is worlds away from Rollo Tomassi — my malignantly narcissistic manager at Elara Caring. That story can be found in Letter of the LawPart 9, and elsewhere throughout this site.

When I was 19, I played tennis with a guy who could crush me with ease.

Eventually, I could beat him

Maybe only one out of 10 times — but that was major progress.

Amateur or expert, I’m happy to learn from anyone. As long as I’m around people with a similar spirt, that’s what matters most.

I kept my competitor’s attention because he could he see me making progress from match to match. When it comes to challenging Rollonot a trace of such growth could be found.

To get acclimated in the first week at Elara, I started exploring the databases and saw a pattern right off the bat. Had I been given something specific to do, I would have ignored his slapdash SQL for the time being.

I’m not keen on sitting around though, so I decided to rewrite some of his code in my style.

As tactfully as humanly possible, I sent him an email to share my approach.

He was elsewhere in the building, and it struck me as strange that he went out of his way to come down to discuss my suggestion.

It just seemed to be making a production of out of nothing.

The second I heard, “It’s beautiful, but” — I could hear the excuses coming.

He started in on his spiel about how he doesn’t have time to be concerned with style, and that he prefers to focus on function over form.

That function is some of the most error-prone work I’ve ever seen — costly me dearly in having to fix it:

And more importantly — costing our customers.

His politely dismissive routine would become a recurring theme over the next two years. He adopted an aspect or two of my technique, but budging one millimeter at a time is a far cry from receptiveness.

At that rate, it would have taken me 10 years to beat that guy in tennis.

Mind you, my new colleague’s code was fairly neat, and yet he still wanted to sharpen it. Rollo’s was a mess and he made excuses to keep it that way.

I sized him up in 60 seconds.

This man has one mode and one mode only: To race through everything (except in meetings where time is infinite as long as he’s talking).

What he’s trying to win is not real — it’s an illusion to preserve how he sees himself.

Rollo is a rare breed of know-it-all — as he actually does know quite a lot. He’s is one of the smartest individuals I’ve ever known — and I learned a great deal from him.

Had he shown a fraction of the same in return — there’s no telling what he could accomplish, and how that would have impacted the entire organization.

There’s only so much horseshit I can stand — and I refused to allow our customers service be sacrificed for his fragile ego.

It was bound to blow

All that waste — and for what?

In a nation that refuses to work together to solve problems — imagine the mountains of waste we produce on a daily basis.

Incalculable — and for what?

Justice and decency are carried in the heart of the captain, or they be not aboard

— Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)

Fun fact: Elara is one of Jupiter’s moons.

At a time when Rock & Roll was split into a dozen competing camps, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers came along to put the pieces back together again. From the first note of their first record, they were both grounded in tradition, and completely fresh.

It was as if they had looked at all the possibilities Rock had to offer, and built their music out of only the best parts. Over time each of the Heartbreakers emerged as a songwriter, singer, and record producer.

Each had success outside of the band . . . yet when they came together they put all  their talents behind Petty’s vision. Petty’s idea of Rock & Roll was stubborn and rebellious, but full of idealism. To Petty, Rock held up the chance of living a life of community and creativity, without compromise.

He never backed off that belief.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers made music like the last of the true believers. They gave back to their audience what they took from Rock & Roll themselves . . . the best of everything


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