Comedian Jeff Foxworthy became famous for his “You Might Be a Redneck If…” jokes, whereby he would make some humorous observation about blue-collar white culture to which the self-deprecating audience could relate. While less humorous than Foxworthy’s remarks on fishing and incest, we can apply his methodology to develop some clear indicators that a junior officer is preparing to commit a critical error. If you find yourself in one of the following situations, stop. You’re probably making a mistake.
If you’re considering a course of action calculated purely to show that you’re in charge, you’re about to do something stupid. In most cases, you’ll just be making a fool of yourself and that will be the end of it. In the worst situations you may be mismanaging the division or endangering the ship. In any case, your decision is based on something other than management or watchstanding prudence, and this will be apparent to everyone affected by it. If you find yourself in this situation, you should ask yourself how your authority came into question in the first place.
If you’re writing an email while angry, you’re about to do something stupid. This is a common mistake of new division officers in frustrating situations, who see email as the best medium to select their words for ideal effect. Trouble is, by the time you’ve brilliantly delivered every point of your message, it has become a rant. Develop the ability to resolve interpersonal conflicts in person.
If, on the other hand, you’re so blinded by emotion that you think it necessary to fire off an angry email at a superior, I refer you to the timeless Laws of the Navy:
Dost think in a moment of anger
‘Tis well with thy seniors to fight?
They prosper, who burn in the morning,
The letters they wrote overnight.
For many are shelved and forgotten,
With nothing to thank for their fate,
But that on a half sheet of foolscap
A fool “Had the honour to state.”
If you’re making an irrevocable decision from an emotional state, you’re about to do something stupid.
Emotions are the mortal enemy of rational decision making. They can be intoxicating like alcohol, and have the troublesome tendency to make it seem necessary to make the decision “Right Now, while I still feel this way.” Examples include dropping the resignation letter right after an uncharacteristically bad day/week/month, or proposing marriage just before leaving for deployment. Just wait. If its really a good decision, it will still be a good decision tomorrow.
If someone uses the words “This is going to be Epic,” you’re about to do something stupid.
This shouldn’t need to be explained. Odds are that whatever you’re planning is indeed going to be “epic,” but not in the way that you imagine.
If you’re colluding with someone to “get your story straight,” you have already done something stupid and are about to make it a lot worse. This is a classic case of “none of us is as dumb as all of us.” Whatever it is you’re trying to cover up, its not as bad as lying and dragging others down with you. In all likelihood, its not really that bad at all– you’ll probably get yelled at, removed from watchstanding and have to requalify with an upgrade– if that. Big deal. Take it like an adult.
If you’re drinking and decide that it’s time to tell someone how you really feel, you’re about to do something stupid. There is a reason you don’t say this stuff when you’re sober– probably because it is a terrible idea. I think most people get that telling off the boss is an equally bad idea regardless of your BAC. This saw cuts both ways though– slobbering all over your guys about how honored you are to serve with them is no way to communicate respect. Tell them this when you are sober.
If you’re considering turning left in a crossing situation, you’re about to do something stupid. Its probably not a good idea. The bible tells us so.