Taking Stock

I took the opportunity of the BIZCATALYST 360˚ Radical Sabbatical to take stock: Who am I? Have I lost my voice? Should I? Does it matter? What is my voice? Did the voice I’d been creating constitute a persona? Do I want one? Would it make me one-dimensional? (I don’t want that.) Am I becoming a curmudgeon? Why do empiricism, common sense, reality, and honesty mean so much to me?

As a result of all that existential, ontological, teleological, and epistemological questioning I could no longer ignore, I decided to create a new philosophy. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say I’m founding a new school of philosophical thought and action. It’ll be called, familiarly, LSA, which is an abbreviation for the more formal name by which it’s officially codified: Leave Shit Alone.

Here are its fundamental tenets:

  1. If something has nothing to do with you, leave it alone.
  2. If you’re unsure of something, leave it alone.
  3. If you know nothing about something, leave it alone.
  4. If something is working well, leave it alone.
  5. If something will be diminished, confused, or complicated by your interfering in it, leave it alone.
  6. If something will be rendered FUBAR by your messing with it, leave it alone.
  7. If something will cost more because of what you do to it, leave it alone.
  8. If something will do less good for fewer people because of what you do to it, leave it alone.
  9. If you think you’re the smartest person in any discussion about anything, leave it alone.
  10. If you think the answer to everything is to tell people to be authentic (they already are), human (they already are), trusting, empathetic, accepting, non-judgmental (especially if you don’t like them the way you judge them to be), or anything else, leave everyone and everything alone.

In short, I came to the conclusion that I can’t be my own force in the world if I’m constantly trying to amend or correct someone else’s force in the world in my own image.

Now What?

As of this writing, LSA hasn’t yet been added to any college curricula. I’m sad to say I don’t hold out much hope for that possibility. Since we live in an age in which ideologues, dogmatists, and pedagogues are mistaken for teachers; opinion-mongers are mistaken for journalists; hysterics are mistaken for scientists; community agitators are mistaken for statesmen; celebrities are mistaken for authorities; fiction writers are mistaken for historians — and none of them can leave shit alone — the prospects for the adoption of my philosophy are pretty bleak, indeed.

Nor does it seem likely we’ll have a pandemic of sanity any time soon. We seem pretty deeply committed to taking sides; to decrying divisiveness as a means of remaining divisive; for espousing diversity, tolerance, and inclusion even as we crusade ever-more militantly against those who disagree with us; and for trying to change the world by trying to remake it in the image of our own views of authenticity and humanity. Besides, consensus, solidarity, unifying principles, common causes, acceptance, open-mindedness, and the empirical recognition of reality are so yesterday.

For now, I guess I’ll just have to be the sole adherent to LSA, shake my head, and leave shit alone … for as long as I can.

P.S. It’s no accident that I discovered this song, this video, the day I wrote this post:


Mark O'Brien
Mark O'Brien
I’m a business owner. My company — O’Brien Communications Group (OCG) — is a B2B brand-management and marketing-communication firm that helps companies position their brands effectively and persuasively in industries as diverse as: Insurance, Financial Services, Senior Living, Manufacturing, Construction, and Nonprofit. We do our work so well that seven of the companies (brands) we’ve represented have been acquired by other companies. OCG is different because our business model is different. We don’t bill by the hour or the project. We don’t bill by time or materials. We don’t mark anything up. We don’t take media commissions. We pass through every expense incurred on behalf of our clients at net. We scope the work, price the work, put beginning and end dates on our engagements, and charge flat, consistent fees every month for the terms of the engagements. I’m also a writer by calling and an Irish storyteller by nature. In addition to writing posts for my company’s blog, I’m a frequent publisher on LinkedIn and Medium. And I’ve published three books for children, numerous short stories, and other works, all of which are available on Amazon under my full name, Mark Nelson O’Brien.

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  1. Mark,
    If I understand correctly, you are calling us to be educated enough to be aware of what we may not fully understand. To be curious, diligent and open to discussion, rather than to presume that WE know what is best for everyone. If we are elected officials then we have a greater duty to dig deep, be resourceful, seek truth, and justice not popularity through unethical, unlawful and unacceptable ways. If I can take that a step further, I extrapolate that you are also calling us to use our moral compass to stand for what is right, within the context of our common humanity. If I understand you, then, I get you. Thank you for the LSA movement, turns out I am a member, too. :-))

    • To quote Don Henley, Catherine, “The more I know, the less I understand.” You got my points precisely. If we commit to listening and learning, we’ll pick up enough humility along the way to understand and help others, rather than trying to tell them what to do or how to be.

      The notion of the moral compass is a tough one. I think of morality as a cultural consensus, something some group of people accepts as a unifying code. We don’t seem to be terribly enamored of unity these days. The proliferation of special interests — and the political pandering to every one of them — works against consensus. That’s worrisome. And if I came to believe our dividedness were the result of deliberate political efforts to keep our eye off the ball, it would be downright terrifying.

      Thank you for joining the LSA movement. 😉

  2. With all due respect to your philosophy (which I wish every success), non-attachment, letting go is only useful for me as a form of accepting things as they are. But acceptance does not mean that we have to like everything or that we have to take a passive attitude towards everything and give up our principles and values. The acceptance I am talking about is not resignation. Acceptance has nothing to do with the forced choice of passively “bearing” everything, but rather with the ability to observe reality from the right perspective, so that it can be dealt with actively. True acceptance therefore offers the opportunity to look at the world with different eyes and to take an active role in one’s life, moving from the role of “spectators” (or “victims”) to that of “protagonists”. By accepting, we abandon the claim to change “the unchangeable”, to find other ways, focusing on ourselves, on our projects and on what can improve the quality of our life.

    • Aldo, you’re someone whom I respect immensely.

      The point of my “philosophy” is not to detach, to bear passively and without question, or to be resigned to anything at all. And I actively pursue observing reality empirically (the “right” perspective is a little slippery), and responding actively and vocally.

      Rather, the point of my “philosophy” is to mind my own business diligently, rather than telling others what to do or how to be. In addition to being a protagonist, I’m not above being an antagonist on occasion. 😉

  3. Hey, my friend.

    Go, Robin Trower!!! I’m a big fan.

    Your piece is cool (and hot – that’s the way you move). It connects, in what’s left of my mind, with Adar Cohen’s three rules for dealing with conflict:
    1. Move toward the conflict.
    2. You know nothing. Even if you do, pretend you don’t.
    3. Keep quiet. Show them that silence is acceptable.

    He says, ““Conversations create the future. Whether or not we have them, and how we have them, is up to us.”


    • There it is, Mac: “Conversations create the future. Whether or not we have them, and how we have them, is up to us.”

      Thank you for engaging in this conversation with me. You’d already won my head. Your conversation with me on your podcast won my heart.

  4. I might follow you in descending order, Mark, when it comes to no. 1, if something is unethical, even if it has nothing to do with you, you must speak up.

    First they came for the Communists
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Communist

    Then they came for the Socialists
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Socialist

    Then they came for the trade unionists
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a trade unionist

    Then they came for the Jews
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Jew

    Then they came for me
    And there was no one left
    To speak out for me

    • Charlotte, I profoundly hope I’ll be among the first to be speak up and to do so loudly and relentlessly.

      In the meantime, I won’t be telling other people what to do or how to be. 😉

  5. Dear Mark – leaving things alone does not change anything – for sure not for the better – if we all leave shit alone – we will become puppets – what should we do? If someone else is making decisions that affect us all and we know that such decisions are objectively profoundly wrong – what should we do in your view, submit to it?

    Especially when you know that what you are leaving alone is UNETHICAL, UNLAWFUL, UNACCEPTABLE – if you leave things alone – you will be affected anyway by the shit you are leaving alone – knowing that you did nothing to try to change because you were too busy leaving shit alone.

    So are we supposed to leave shit alone instead of trying to make it better for all?

    That’s why we have the world that we have – because too many leave shit alone and don’t do anything to change and make this world better.

    Shit needs to be corrected.  Some shit needs to be addressed. Not to mention that world evolved precisely because of those who weren’t willing to leave shit alone.

    If nothing has meaning, what on earth ar we doing here? Don’t get me wrong – I respect your opinon – everyone has their own opinions and as such do according to their own nature.

    Maybe I misinterpreted your message – and if so, please correct me if I’m wrong.

    Thank you.
    Massimo Scalzo

    • Massimo, there are several things I’d like to express by way of reply:

      First, thank you. Yours is precisely the kind of reasoned, curious, respectful response I hope for when I write.

      Second, it may surprise you to know I agree with you. My sense is that by telling others what to do and how to be, we’re becoming the puppets you describe. If we put our efforts toward fixing, rather than ignoring, the unethical, unlawful, and unacceptable, we wouldn’t have time to tell others what to do and how to be. As Jordan Peterson put it, “People who don’t have their own houses in order should be very careful before they go about reorganizing the world … People have things that are more within their personal purview that are more difficult to deal with and that they’re avoiding … the way they avoid them is by adopting pseudo-moralistic stances on large-scale social issues so that they look good to their friends and their neighbors.” (See, “Change, Climate”, “Pandemic, Coronavirus”, et al.).

      Third, I’m immensely grateful to you for joining this conversation. If more people were willing to question, to think, to trust their own senses, and to engage with each other as you’ve engaged with me here, the world would be a much better place.

      Thank you, sir. I’m glad you’re here.