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Looking for Logic in All the Wrong Places

Humans are profoundly illogical. Yet we devote many of our waking hours to trying to find logic in situations where none exists.

September 16, 2011
Related Topics: Technology
KEYWORDS technology

Humans are not logical. If we were, wars would never begin and people wouldn’t buy overpriced homes with no money down and loans they can never repay.

Humans are profoundly illogical. Yet we devote many of our waking hours to trying to find logic in situations where none exists. Our minds need order, fairness, equity and justice. But much of life is neither fair nor just. That’s a problem for many of us.

If I had to pick educational backgrounds that breed employees who excessively look for logic, I would nominate engineers, computer programmers and math majors. Once the logical thinkers make peace with the fact that all decisions are made by real people — not logical computers — life gets easier, we make more of a positive difference and are happier.

Another place our need to be logical can kill our mojo is at home. Many of us lose mojo at home because of our need to use logic to prove that our partners are wrong in pointless arguments. This is so common ministers frequently remind newly married couples to ask themselves, “Would you rather be right or have a happy marriage?”

Sometimes, we hope logic will prevail against all odds to reveal to all that we are right, and we stick to our guns until the bitter, bitter end. This happened some years ago to a friend of mine named Tim who was working as a producer at a cable channel. Tim was in charge of all evening programming, and thought he was on track to run the channel someday.

Then the corporate parent installed a woman from headquarters as Tim’s boss. She had no experience in broadcasting, but was very adept at impressing her superiors, providing good quotes to the media and shaping her executive persona.

Tim hated her immediately. He fought with her and complained about her to colleagues, making no effort to mask his contempt. Tim believed that in a logical world, her shallowness would be exposed and his brilliance rewarded. Tim thought his superior broadcasting expertise was a powerful shield, more powerful than the woman’s power to ?re him. He didn’t count on running out of time. Within a year, the woman got fed up with Tim’s belligerence and sent him packing. A year later, her ineptitude caught up with her and she was given the boot too. Tim might have been right about her, but that was small consolation. He had lost his job.

If you’re looking for your own view of logic to win the day, you may be looking in the wrong place. If you focus on making a positive difference, instead of being satis?ed with feeling objective, you will bene?t both your company and your career. You may ultimately increase, rather than damage, your mojo.

The next time you pride yourself on your superior logic and damage relationships with the people at work or at home, ask yourself, “How logical was that?”

Take bashing the boss, for example. Talent management consultant Development Dimensions International did some research that showed average Americans spend 15 hours a month criticizing or complaining about their boss. Many of us bash the boss at work, after work, even on weekends when our only audiences are captive family members. That 15 hours is more time than Americans devote to watching baseball, which suggests our real national pastime is bashing the boss. A little bit of boss bashing may be understandable, but whatever therapeutic bene?t we derive is outweighed by the negatives.

It’s not particularly attractive. Trashing the boss when he or she is not in the room makes even the most eloquent whiner appear small and cowardly. Nothing constructive will come of it. You won’t build a better boss with your jibes; you’ll only tarnish your reputation.

More than anything, boss bashing is unproductive. Imagine what you could accomplish if you dedicated those 15 hours to something of consequence like going to night school or being with your family.

If you really have a problem with bosses, talk to them about it. If you feel you cannot talk with them, leave. If you cannot talk with them, and cannot leave, make the best of it. That’s logical.

Marshall Goldsmith is the author or co-editor of 31 books, including MOJO. He can be reached at

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