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51. Let's Just Play it By Ear

I was trying to pin down a meeting time with someone to finally knock out an upcoming deliverable. We were both busy and didn’t seem to have much overlap in availability. Their response was “lets just play it by ear.” Not exactly the most helpful response.

But if I’m being honest with myself, I’ve done the same thing many times over. Upon reflection, I think there are a variety of different reasons why I, and perhaps others, take this stance.

Sometimes the real reason is that we don’t actually want to participate. Our intention is to delay to the point where there isn’t enough time remaining and the project becomes so low-priority that it goes away for good.

Sometimes we opt for this go-with-the-flow response because we’re being lazy. We don’t want to take the time to re-prioritize our tasks and deliverables in ways that allow us to make a logical decision.

And finally, sometimes we play it by ear because there are variables, inputs, or contextual circumstances that might dictate the ability to bring closure to the initiative. This final reason is the only one that is reasonable.

It’s important to get to the bottom of why one wants to “play it by ear.” If circumstantial ambiguity is the cause, that’s fine. But if it’s any other reason, then you are ignoring bigger, underlying issues.


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