Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Voice of the Rebel

“People are afraid, very afraid of those who know themselves. The masses do not want to be disturbed even though they may be in misery.” – Osho

“Yeah with one foot in the grave and one foot on the pedal, I was born a rebel” - Tom Petty “Rebels

I ask a lot of questions.

People who know me know that my two favorite questions are “Why?” and “How do you know?”. 

I have mused about questions, the need to ask them, how to ask them, etc., many times, including but not limited to the following posts:

Improving the Result

Facts –The Downfall of Many Dreamers

Asking Questions That Get Answered

The Most Important Question of All

Solving Mysteries–The Direct Approach

If My Question Offends You ….

If You Can’t Explain It, Don’t Do It

The Secret of the “Soothsayer”

What Do You Stand For?

Solving Puzzles–Follow the Breadcrumbs

Ouch …. that is only a partial list.  I didn’t realize that I wrote about this subject THAT many times. :-)

I don’t just ask these questions of others.  I ask them of myself …. daily … oftentimes hourly … sometimes more frequently and with far greater intensity than the manner in which I ask others.

I have discovered that when one asks a lot of questions, it makes a lot of people nervous, especially if they have something to hide or they have been asking the same questions but the answer is eluding them.  You always know that something is amiss when the mere existence of a question angers or frightens people.

I remember getting in some hot water on Wall St. once when I pointed out that a particular server, which was required by law to never be allowed to fail, had no source of redundancy at all.  I didn’t realize it had no redundancy but by asking if I could see the redundancy built into the architecture, I created quite a fuss.  The response was almost like “ Alert. Alert. The new guy has dared to ask the forbidden question.  Which is easier – fixing the server or killing the new guy”.  It was close but I won the coin toss. :-)

My persistent asking of questions has produced a Life that I am filled with gratitude for.  In fact, the blessings that have filled my Life often cause me to ask questions about that also!  Ahhhh, the mind of the restless querent. :-)

It has also produced its share of complexities.

For example, I have discovered that ….

1. Musing about emergency preparedness and the importance of it gets you on the Department of Homeland Security’s official reading list (hi guys) merely for discussing it.  I wonder if that means that all Mormons are on their list also.

2. Musing about why a politician would take the action they took gets you investigated by the Department of Justice (anti-terrorism group), who later give you an all clear when they discover that no lines were crossed (I could have told you that in advance, guys). :-)

3. Musing about projects that my former father-in-law (a USAF colonel, now deceased) worked on also attracts some interesting “fans”.  Some are nutbars – some are seriously powerful people who don’t like such musings.  When powerful people reach out, it is not very pleasant.

4. Some business people who become nervous when too many questions are asked make it their singular focus to resist the people who are asking the questions.  Sometimes their business goes out of business as a result because they either wouldn’t answer the question or they turned their focus entirely on burying the question instead of answering it.

5. Related to the previous point, some people would rather see their projects fail than answer difficult questions or allow them to be asked.

6. Witness protection is not as exciting as it appears to be in the movies, for you or your family.

7. Once you pass 100 death threats, you learn to tell the difference between the credible ones (requiring law enforcement action) and the drive-by nutbars.

8. When you point out gaps in security (national security, airline or otherwise), a thank you or a correction of the gap is more appropriate than resisting or burying it.  Problems that are not solved outright always manifest later – usually larger, more impactful and more significant than when they were pointed out.  I-told-you-so’s when people’s lives are at stake bring no satisfaction.

9. Politicians who serve the people and not their own needs are becoming increasingly rare.

10. To not ask questions where people are always fearful that the unspeakable question will eventually derail them makes some people very paranoid.  It’s like the time I was working in a highly politicized environment and had a grievance filed against me for being too respectful.  Why such a grievance?  Because, as I was informed, when one is respectful in a difficult environment, it must mean that you are up to something and so you should stop being respectful immediately so as to allay further suspicion.  I mused about the event here.

11. According to one priest, God hates me.  Apparently the priest has a red phone to the Upper Chamber and issued this edict when I asked a couple of questions about God.  That was when I discovered that asking questions in certain faiths is not permitted …. ever.

12. Hiding behind reasons like “need to know basis”, “national security”, “I don’t need to answer because I am the expert here” or “just because” cause many more questions to be asked.

13. There are many people who, not having the courage to ask their own questions, prefer to prod others to ask questions on their behalf (it’s safer and lower risk for them), ride on the coattails of those with more courage or think that people who ask such questions lead exciting lives and should therefore be glommed onto to bring excitement into their own Life.  They are unnecessary weight that will only slow you down, distract you or get you into trouble.  PS – some are genuinely crazy.

There are many others I have learned but that’s the fun list.

Despite my passion, I play by the rules

The amusing thing is that while I ask questions for a living as a strategy guy, my musings here aren’t  meant to embarrass, reveal security gaps, highlight potentially illegal acts or anything else. 

My questions are always respectful of boundaries and I do my best to be respectful of the feelings of others.  That being said, some people will go out of their way to be offended or intimidated.  Others have massive egos or other issues that call them to defend against anyone who might be perceived as a threat.  I can’t help those people and make no apologies for the impact my questions have on them.

I tend to be pro business (I am a Wall St’er after all), pro government, pro military, pro democracy and the like.  I don’t subscribe to conspiracy theories, I have a strong sense of “live and let live” and I don’t make other people’s problems my own just for the fun of it.  I also don’t support or endorse people who think they are above the law nor do I believe that breaking the law to protest it is a viable option.

I believe highly in honoring confidentiality and respecting the principle of trust.  I don’t share things confided in me or protected by legal covenants – EVER.

I believe that things like national security, emergency preparedness and lifting / helping others are things that we all play a role in – not just the government.

I do not believe in violence but I don’t think that constantly turning the other cheek solves anything either because people take advantage of timidity and weakness.

However …..

I also believe that it is important to think and not allow others to think for you or to form your opinions for you in absence of facts and data.

Sometimes a question is asked innocently, with no knowledge that others fear the question and will despise the querent as a result.

Sometimes one is intrigued by a subject and merely wants to learn more.

And sometimes one sees the emperor walking down the street with no clothing on and while everyone else marvels at his “beautiful clothing”, one feels compelled to cry out and point out that he is naked.

And as a result, some people will cry foul or claim to be a victim merely because the question has exposed something that they would prefer to remain buried.

The ones who cry out the loudest are the ones who need to be examined much more closely.  I refer to this as the Vatican Effect (aka the Streisand Effect):

The more noise someone makes trying to hide or refute something, the more Life they give it, requiring a closer investigation as a result.

Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” would probably have  died in obscurity had the Vatican not set up a committee to investigate and stymie the popularity of the book.  Of course many people wanted to see why the Vatican would do such a thing and the rest is history regarding Dan Brown’s success.

It is not our right nor do we have the time to question everything

Many things are none of our business or are not on our Path of Purpose and so to question everything becomes a waste of time (both our time and the time of others) or an abuse of privilege.

But when we as individuals, groups or nations stop asking questions completely, we stop learning.

When you stop learning, stop listening, stop looking and asking questions, always new questions, then it is time to die. - Lillian Smith

My questions often come in the form of cranial defibrillators.  But those are the best kind of all as Martin Luther King Jr. pointed out when he said:

Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.

And so to the many on the receiving end of my questions, I am sorry to say I’m not dead yet. :-)

And yes, I am a rebel.

But in George Lucas’ world, the rebels are the good guys. :-)

What do you think of that?

In service and servanthood,



  1. To "Why?" and "How do you know?" may I respectfully add "What does that mean?" and my personal fave, "So what?"

    Oh wait, one more, but only for you. Is that enough respect to get me in trouble?

    I may not have all the answers, but I've always loved having a few good questions.

  2. I love your follow-ons, Janice. :-)

    Thanks for sharing them.

    Create a great day!


  3. Nice List and ethic, I agree completely. Some people ask questions to gauge your response, others to look for their own holes, very few want real input. Nutbars cracked me up, however in many ways they define the outer-limits of the envelope/sample and can be valuable indicators that do not show up near the mean, median, and mode. I learned a long time ago to look for small pattern changes instead of gross movement...

    Best Wishes,


    1. Thanks for your kind observations, Wes.

      That is an interesting observation regarding the outer-limits as defined by certain elements - definitely worthy of exploration! :-)

      Create a great day!