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Pushing a Rope

July 17, 2018

I’m camping this week. I’m rafting on the Green River in Moab, UT. (Honestly, if I weren’t here, I’d be jealous of me. Okay, that just got weird and way too snarky. Sorry.)

We’ll be here all week. Even though we’re rafting, Utah is still a desert. And in the desert, water is life. I normally take this very stylish 2 liter Sprite bottle full of water.

And while I’ll be taking it, I also decided to try a Camelback style solution. The rafting guide may not be thrilled with a 5 lbs projectile in his boat.

A few years ago I bought several “backback hydration” systems. They are not Camelbacks, but they are the same type of solution. I had 5 sons who went through scouts and 8 daughters who also love to camp. These backpacks got plenty of use. In fact, I’ve never actually used one before.

And that leads to my problem. The tube that connects the reservoir to the mouthpiece is a kind of important part of the whole operation. And as I pulled it out of our scout bin, I noticed it was dirty. And dirty right in the middle of the tube. The 3 foot long tube.

What to do?

I tried shaking it back and forth. Nope

I tried filling it with water and shaking it back and forth. Nope.

I tried filling it half with water and shaking it back and forth. Still nothing.

Have you ever heard the phrase it’s impossible to push a rope? For some reason that came to mind.

You cannot push a rope.

The phrase makes sense. It’s the idea that certain things work a particular way and no amount of “out of the box” thinking will get you past that fact.

For example, exercise. There are multiple websites and ads that will help you “get ripped in just 10 minutes per day.” And they have a picture of a 300 lbs guy and next to him is Chris Hemsworth as Thor from The Avengers.

Guess what? They don’t work. You cannot shortcut your way to good health, or a ripped physique. You can’t push a rope. You have to eat healthy. Get plenty of rest. And exercise.

The same is true in business. I remember an old movie starring Michael J. Fox called “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” It was based on a long running stage play of the same name. In it, Michael J. Fox manages to go from being the janitor to become an executive in his company. One of the first thing he does is move into an empty office and just “own” it.

I’ve spent my entire career in business. And while it’s a fun movie, any attempt to duplicate it would fail immediately. I’ve worked for a lot of companies, some small, some massive. My current company has 133,000 employees. When I worked for Microsoft, we had 50,000 employees, many of them working on campus in Redmond.

Having seniority at Microsoft got you two things. First, you got first dibs on new hardware. (And then your 6 month old laptop gets passed to the guy with the 2nd most seniority, and his 12 month old one gets passed down and so on.) The second thing that you get is first dibs on office space. Every company has a premium on office space.

Even when there are lots of open offices, they all have an owner. Somewhere there’s a spreadsheet with that office and the person who owns it.

My point is that the movie shows you how to short cut, how to “push a rope.”

So, what do I do with my water tube? I could sterilize it. That wasn’t the issue. It was the ugly brown junk. Who wants to drink that? Even if it is sterilized, no thanks. My son suggested, “Throw it out. Buy a new one?”

Yeah, that would work, but then I thought about rope. With my camping gear I carry a coil of that really scratchy “Manila” rope. It’s made from fibers soaked in oil to keep them from rotting. Interesting trivia bit, if you cut a six inch section of that rope and shred it, you can add a couple of drops of hand sanitizer and it makes the best fire starter I’ve ever seen. (Did I mention I also carry a small tube of hand sanitizer with my camping gear? But, I fear I’m getting off track again.)

That Manila rope was just about the right size to fit down the tube I needed cleaned. But, I obviously couldn’t pull the rope through. So, I had to push it until I got one end out the other end of the tube.

Nope, you can’t normally push a rope. But, sometimes the circumstances line up to let you do the impossible.

(After 12 feet of rope, the tube was looking brand new, inside and out.)

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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