Careful: Your Acronyms Define You.
Professionals love to use acronyms: PMP, EPT, IPA, ROM, EFT, FTE, TOC, just to list a few that are under the belt of project and portfolio managers. It is tempting to use them: acronyms give the impression of knowledge, that the issue at hand is known, the subject is clear and simple, tamed and controlled. And there are so many to choose from. They may stand for different things and can be discipline-, industry-, and even individual-specific. What do they really mean? Recently I learned a new one: SSS.
A group of us sat around the table at a backyard party in Los Angeles – artists and artist-wannabes, listening to the exchange of war stories about the hardships of surviving as performers in Tinseltown. Yet despite the hardship, no one seemed ready to give up on their dreams.
One white-haired guy, who claimed to be a songwriter searching for recognition while working as a music teacher at a nearby high school, told us about his work. In nostalgic reverie and with glazing eyes, he described how he goes to the mountains each summer school break, rents a cabin by the lake, and just sits there to write songs. As he spoke, he reached for his guitar, put it on his lap and brushed the strings.
“What kind of songs do you write?” I asked. “The old-fashioned ones,” he said. “What does that mean?” “You know, the regular SSS.” “What is that?” “It stands for simple, sincere, and singable,” he said. “The type of song Walt Disney used to look for.”
“Can you play one?” I asked. ”Sure,” he said and went on to sing a few cute, rhyming verses, while plucking the strings on his guitar. The music was smooth, the words acceptable. It was a nice moment.
The singing captured the attention of others at the party and a few came to sit with us. “So, you just sit in your cabin by the lake all summer and write songs?” I asked when he put his guitar down. “You have a cabin in the woods?” interjected one of the newcomers. “I also have a cabin in the woods with a small pond close by.”
”That sounds quite romantic,” I commented. “Yeah. But things aren’t easy, you know. This year we had so much trouble, and nobody wanted to listen to us,” he grumbled. “You also write songs?” “No man, we had problems with beavers, up there at the cabin. They came and started building their dams in the draining creek, and the small pond by our cabin started to overflow. We had water seeping through the door. We complained and complained, but nobody was able to help us.” “Don’t you have an Animal Control unit in the area?” “Yeah, but they didn’t want to help: beavers are protected wildlife. All we could do is break down their dam and let the water flow. We did that several times, but they just built the dam back up again. We tried to scare them, but they aren’t afraid of nobody.”
”So what did you do? How did you deal with it?” I asked, annoyed at the injustice. “We finally got rid of them. We used SSS,” he explained, smiling.
”SSS? Simple, Sincere, and Singable?” “No. Shoot, Shovel, and Shut up.”