Amy Roberts: Fake it ’til you make it
This weekend I had a conversation with a friend that corroborated one of my long-held suspicions: Outside of a very few specialized fields, very few people really know what they’re doing. “Everyone is just faking it,” he confirmed to me. “We’re all just working on the Penske file, waiting for the clock to strike 5 p.m.” The George Costanza reference made me realize this is not a new phenomenon — it’s been this way for at least 25 years.
My friend and I agreed there is usually (hopefully) some level of expertise involved, but for the most part, conviction often seems like a far greater asset than competence. As long as you think you’ve got the required skills (or pretend you do) and have convinced others of this, proof points are negotiable at best.
I’ve been noodling the likelihood of this philosophy for some time; the majority of my career probably. Throughout the years I’ve bluffed my way through strategy sessions, listened to numerous coworkers BS their way through an explanation, and accepted awards on behalf of my company for being an “industry leader” or the best at whatever it was we applied to be the best at and thinking, “If we are truly the best, dear god, how bad is number two?”
It makes me wonder if we’re all just googling our way through life — reciting whatever sounds good and accurate, but rarely knowing it, much less implementing it. What flabbergasts me even more is how infrequently such obvious displays of ineptitude are actually called out. More often than not, they’re explained away with more spin, more drivel, more meaningless words to get lost in. It’s nothing short of a wonder that more people aren’t dead.
When it comes to incompetence, whoever is in charge of UDOT’s snowplow schedule comes to mind. In two decades of living here, I’d never seen I-80 the way I saw it last Wednesday. I had an appointment in Salt Lake that I couldn’t miss — a minor surgery that had been scheduled for months. It is not an exaggeration to say the commute was worse than the procedure. The forecast called for a winter storm days in advance and by the time I had to leave Park City, it had been dumping for hours. I made the assumption someone in charge of plowing the roads had access to the same weather app and/or ability to look out the window that I have and would have done something about it. Silly me.
The stretch of interstate between Jeremy Ranch and Sugar House looked like someone was filming a movie about the winter apocalypse. Drivers just gave up and left their cars in whatever lane they were currently in — there appeared to be little attempt at moving them off to the side. Semi-truck drivers did the same. A few people smoked cigarettes while standing in the middle of I-80 on their cellphones. They seemed to be walking away from it all, with no real destination in mind. Probably because it was impossible to see the next exit. The electronic billboards requiring 4×4 or chains were comically ineffective. I saw a lot of ill-prepared drivers, unexpected pedestrians and discarded vehicles, but I didn’t see one single truck with a plow. It was as if all the plow drivers had left town the day before for a conference in Cancun.
There was coverage of the carnage on the news that night, but no explanation as to why there was no preparation for a storm that had been anticipated days prior. No one was questioned or held accountable. They must have all just looked really busy and sighed with annoyance when approached. It seems to work for a lot of professions, and road maintenance must not be that different.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.
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“There are times when the universe just sets you spinning and last weekend was one of those,” writes Teri Orr.