Orienting, Observing, Doing Homework, and Paying Dues

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in skmurphy

“Paying dues is a concept used by people who’ve worked extremely hard to try and slow down people who work extremely smart.”
Scott Kubie in “There Are No Dues To Be Paid

I agree that “you need to pay your dues” can be code for “sit down and shut up” but it can also mean other things.

Many teams work on complex projects that can take a while to appreciate. Sometimes there are aspects of taking responsibility for a situation or a piece of a project that are not obvious until you have experienced them yourself.

Sometimes it’s a polite way for someone to tell you that you have not demonstrated the necessary competence or results to ask for more responsibility.

There is also quotation G. K. Chesterton’s in “The Thing” (in the chapter entitled, “The Drift from Domesticity”) that’s worth remembering when you plan to recommend a change to a system:

“In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

h/t American Chesterton Society

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Comments (2)

  • SKMurphy, Inc. » Serious and Competent People


    […] challenge to breaking with tradition is making sure you understand the original problems that the tradition developed to prevent. This requires you to mentally simulate the impact of dispensing with a precedent or tradition […]


  • SKMurphy, Inc. Lost Arts and Roads No Longer Taken - SKMurphy, Inc.


    […] The abandonment of a technology, the loss of an art or methodology, these are the flip side of of the adoption of new technologies and methods. A trickier challenge is when techniques for scaffolding or bootstrapping that don’t appear in the finished article are lost: we can reverse engineer Roman concrete because samples still exist, Greek fire we can only speculate about. I spend most of my efforts trying to obsolete existing tools and practices. But to be effective at that I need to make sure I understand what I am asking people to give up. […]


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