Why Everybody Needs a Vladimir Putin
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And here’s your host, Matt Hardy.
Today I want to talk about getting difficult things done without being the bad guy.
The more sensational title is: “Why everybody needs a Vladimir Putin.”
A short while ago, just before the Paris bombings, Vladimir Putin was blacklisted among many democratic nations.
Russia had been slapped with no trade embargos and Putin had been subject to all sorts of public finger wagging from political figures outside of his country – due to his actions in the Ukraine.
But shortly after the Paris bombings, there seemed to be a shift in attitude.
Suddenly leaders began reaching out to Putin saying that all nations needed to come together and form a united front against a common enemy in the terrorist attacks in Paris.
Now, I realize that politicians are great at flip-flopping when it comes to their stance on something – but why the sudden change of heart?
Because at first, Putin was being characterized as the devil and an enemy to everything that was good in the world.
Then in the blink of an eye people were reaching out to him in the hopes of having him as an ally.
Well, I have a theory.
And that theory is: “Nobody likes to be the bad guy.”
So when the opportunity comes, people will always look to someone else to do their dirty work.
Look at it from other countries’ point of view.
In the West, we are at times, hamstrung by having to play a political game due to the democratic nature of how we have been elected to power.
What I mean by that, is if you have been elected to power in a democratic nation, you can’t run around doing whatever you want, whenever you want, however you want.
Because if you make enough people mad, you’ll be thrown out of office.
So you’re caught in a game where you need to get things done while not upsetting too many people and saving political face.
One of the disadvantages of living in a democracy.
If you’re the leader you can’t have it your way all the time.
Now – don’t get me wrong – I think democracy is a great thing.
I don’t think we should change.
Just for the record, it’s not the British coming up in me – thinking we need to go back to colonialism and so we can try to resurrect the old British empire in a bid to take over the world again.
Those days have long since past “when the sun never set on the British empire.”
But when you look across the pond at Russia – Putin seems to be able to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants.
Even though Russia is said to be a democratic nation.
So if you needed to get something done without pushing the envelope closer to war yourself – why not just ally-up with someone who might be able to get away with having an itchy trigger finger?
If you’re a president or prime minister, you certainly don’t want to be the guy known for pushing the button that caused a war.
At least this way, if HE does something to spark an all-out war, you can pull back and say, “Wow, wow, wow…… wow. That was uncalled for.”
You can say that his actions were that of his own, and that neither you – nor any of the other allies in the common united front against terrorism – were in support of them.
But if it goes well, you can claim you were a part of it.
You get some of the benefits with very little upfront political risk.
And if there’s someone out there like Putin who seemingly doesn’t mind being the bad guy, well, people will most often take the easiest way out and let him or someone like him get their hands dirty first.
It’s the game you have to play in a democracy – the delicate balance between getting things done and crossing the line.
So when you have someone like Putin, if you can justify your allegiance by compartmentalizing your relationship as only being on the same team when it comes to fighting against a common terrorist threat – you put yourself in the best possible position.
By telling people that you only agree on this one area and that you haven’t changed your mind about his other actions, you can placate the people back at home, while appearing to take at least some sort of positive action towards addressing the terrorist situation.
Does this paint a negative picture of people leading democratic nations?
But it’s like two tired parents in the middle of a fight over whose turn it is to discipline their kid.
Inevitably, you hear someone say, “Why do I always have to be the bad guy?”
So, when pulled in a million different directions and a potential solution comes up where you don’t have to be the heavy hand of discipline, it can be tempting to take it.
And I, for one, wouldn’t blame them for doing it.
But that being said, it makes life easier if there is someone like Putin around, giving you that option.
You think this is all part of the gross political game?
This happens ALL THE TIME in business where you have a leader with subordinates (ie a boss and employees).
Remember – nobody likes to be the bad guy, but someone has to at times in order to get stuff done.
So somebody needs to be the pointy end of the stick, and if you don’t want to be that person, you need somebody to fill that role.
It was like when I was working in a hockey store.
There were certain products that you just weren’t allowed to return due to health Canada regulations.
One of these products were jockstraps.
So if you bought a jock, that was it – you weren’t allowed to return it.
We had signs posted RIGHT BESIDE the display and always told people that they were non-returnable when they bought them.
And we’d always get the comment, “Do people actually try to return these?”
So everybody knew the drill.
But inevitably, we would have someone try to return one.
And when that happened, that was my cue that I had to be the pointy end of the stick and tell the guy that he wasn’t going to be able to return it.
I would have to tell them that, although I was extremely sorry as per health Canada regulations, I just couldn’t do it.
I figured that if this was a big enough problem that the government had to enact a health law over it, people would understand just how important this was.
Obviously, the government figured this could be the starting point of an epidemic as so many people play hockey.
It could affect a huge section of the population if jock itch were to spread throughout the whole nation.
Lumber might not get cut. Maple syrup might not get harvested. Dog sled teams might not be cared for. The igloos might fall into disrepair. The sales of red flannel shirts might plummet. Beer drinking levels might remain the same or increase.
In short, everything could change dramatically with so many Canadians sidelined with this sickness.
I don’t know why these jock-returners didn’t understand the implications and gravity of the situation we were dealing with.
In spite of all of this, there were always a few guys who would get crazy worked up over the fact that they couldn’t return a used jock.
And I would have to come up with creative solutions to deal with them.
My “go to” move was to offer them a chance to exchange their jock for one a complete stranger had brought back at an earlier date.
It was incredible.
You could actually see the wave of disgust wash over the guys face as he thought about the prospect of exchanging his quote un quote never-used jock for one that someone else returned.
I go on to explain that it really wasn’t a big deal and the previous returner had given me the EXACT SAME explanation that he just did.
Usually after a bit more back and forth they would end up buying a new jock as per Canadian law.
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh….. all this over ten bucks.
Crazy example, right?
But it holds true.
If you can make someone else be the bad guy – like if you’re the boss and you can delegate the awkward “customer jock returning situations” – it can lighten your load.
In his book “The 48 Laws of Power” Robert Greene lays it out beautifully. He says:
“There are two uses …. to save appearances, and to save energy and effort…it will often serve you well to use those around you both as a screen to hide your intentions and as a cat’s-paw to do your work for you.
Truly powerful people keep their hands clean. Only good things surround them, and the only announcements that they make are of glorious achievements.”
Greene goes on to quote Baltasar Gracian, saying:
“Do everything pleasant yourself, everything unpleasant through third parties. By adopting the first course you win favor, by taking the second you deflect ill will. Important affairs often require rewards and punishments. Let only the good come from you and the evil from others.”
Here’s to getting things done without having to get your hands dirty.
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I hope you got something out of this podcast.
An idea you can use.
A different thought or viewpoint.
Or maybe you found it mildly amusing.
At any rate, can you refer this podcast to one other person you think might find it entertaining or useful?
Because I want to help as many people as I can, in as short a time as possible.
Here’s something to listen to while you think about it…
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