I have an aversion.

It’s a pretty strong aversion, actually, and it does a good job of ruining my day somedays.

I hate letting things get broken.

Not necessarily physically, although I’m a huge fan of not getting my (or pretty much anyone else’s) bones broken.

I’m speaking more of things that I can (somewhat) control.  If I have the power to prevent something from breaking, I’ll usually go to great lengths to keep it whole.  And, unfortunately, while that often leads to short-term success it tends to lead to long-term “WTF DID YOU DO???”.

That’s one of those tough trade-offs, though.  Do you let things break early, hoping to get attention on them with the hopes that you can get things fixed?  Or do you band-aid the hell out of them, keeping it afloat for now until you can work on a fix for it with what you have?

In an ideal world the answer is easy because it never comes up – things work.  But in the world I inhabit (the real one, not the one where a d20 solves everything) life’s not set up that way, and sometimes keeping something together for the time being seems like the best answer.

I use things like “if we can just get over this bump we’ll be fine” and “if I can just be strong for this day/week/month/year things will get better” and the like to justify my addiction to not letting things break.  It’s less painful to me to string them together with duct tape…or so I tell myself.

The problem is, absent something breaking the only people who truly understand the problem are the people in the middle of it.  No amount of communication with your buddies or shrink or anyone else solves that, either – as long as those of us in the midst of the challenge continue to keep things working anyone on the outside looking in just sees the process working.  After all, if we truly believe it’s broken why are we continuing to patch it?  That’s just crazy-talk; only masochists would drive themselves into the ground trying to keep a clearly-sinking ship afloat.  And clearly we’re not masochists…right?

But there’s a different dynamic at play – the hindsight.  Did I really do everything I could to make this work?  If I were on the outside looking in (which is absolutely, positively impossible – once you’re in you can never be truly objective about the situation) would I say I performed sufficiently?  Or were there areas where I could have – or should have – done something better/differently?  Could I have approached the situation from a different perspective, tried to put myself in another person’s shoes, not done something I did and gotten a more positive result?  Is the situation broken…or did I just fail?

So do you take a chance and risk being labeled as a “quitter” or “failure” by letting the band-aids fall off…or do you continue to take the path of least short-term resistance and keep things afloat, hoping for better days?  Do you vie for a known short-term acceptable state on the risk that the long-term doesn’t get better…or do you vie for a hopeful long-term solution on the risk that things actually get worse?

And here’s the kicker – I’m willing to bet you face this every day, too.  You may not have the same aversion to letting things break as I do, but I’d be surprised if you didn’t have something going on where you have to balance short-term vs. long-term outcomes with a heavy dose of risk involved in one or both.  How do you make your decisions in those cases?

(post image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /

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What do you think?