People always talk about a particular scene in the movie Brave Heart, when William Wallace (Mel Gibson) is delivering a speech to his troops just before a battle with the English.
I always wondered how he was able to address thousands of men on horseback without any microphone, speakers, power-point or audio-visual crew standing behind a tree somewhere. Hey, I speak for a living and I can tell you that that was an amazing feat!
It’s a good scene, but for me there was a better one. At some point William Wallace gathers his sword and is asked by someone where he’s going, to which he replies “I’m going to pick a fight!” This one-liner stole my attention and nearly exploded my brain. I have always wondered why this one line excited me so much. To be honest it really didn’t sound like that, he was asked “wir ah yooo gooin?” to which he replied “I’m gooin ta puck u fooit!” Anyone versed in the Scottish tongue will confirm my interpretation. Ah, bless the Scots.
A while back I was having lunch with “The Inventor of Scrabble”. I.e. one of those corporate types, who uses extremely big corporate sounding words all the time. He’s harmless enough, and he was paying for lunch so I decided to entertain his newly acquired MBA language! I explained to him how much I enjoyed going into companies in short bursts. I loved going in to an organisation and pointing out what was not working and then suggesting how to fix it. I was never cut out to be a coach. The thought of having to take people through a process or idea step-by-step, offering correction, implementation, then revisiting, getting buy-in, working with ego’s, corporate politics and all the posturing and attached BS, is just not a part of my skills set. I get in, make some noise, get people thinking and then leave. He looked at me and said, “That’s what you do best – you’re an agitator!” Now I have been called many things in my life but never an agitator. It was exciting. It was corporate, sexy talk. It had a name. I knew there was a reason for people studying an MBA – to give ordinary things fancy names.
I have always thought of myself as being a troublemaker, a rebel, a maverick but never an agitator. I even thought about the movie. The Agitator. And when George Clooney stops trying to be a family man, he could play me in the movie.
And then it all fell into place (back to the movie analogy now); the one thing that I do, have done and enjoy doing the most is picking a fight. Whenever the customer service is poor I am the first person to stand up and fight for what is right. Sometimes to the total embarrassment of my children; but I just can’t help myself. I just have to stand up for what is right. If you pay for something you must get what you pay for; it’s only right.
Whenever people break the law (be it actual or a governing body’s constitution), I’m like a Pit Bull in a Turffontein back yard. In fact, in this sub-standard, slap dash, short cut, do little, less or nothing, care less, below average, stick your head in the ground, don’t make waves world that we live in today, if you don’t fight for your rights, service, delivery and insist that people keep their promises you won’t last a day.
We need freedom fighters that fight the good fight. Freedom from mediocrity, con artists, lazy people, stupid people, annoying people, people who stand at the top of escalators deciding which direction to walk in and who then cause the 30 people behind them to cr4p in their pants as they clamour over each other to disembark around them.
We need people to demand that the coffee is hot, and that the meal looks like the picture on the menu. If you eat at places that have a picture of the food on the menu, you may want to try a classy restaurant once in a while. Wimpy on a first date = you’re not going to get lucky, but if she’s from the south and you add chips to her order you may be in with a shout but it’s still “iffy”.
Many people believe that fighting for what is right has to be a hostile situation. It is true that most of these situations are not pleasant, but we can disagree without being disagreeable. And if not; so be it! When returning the product because it doesn’t work, tastes bad or functions incorrectly it doesn’t necessarily have to be a hostile encounter. But returning it, sending it back and fighting the fight is a must; it is the only way that people understand that they have to deliver what they promise. They have to know they are faced with a street fighter who’ll keep them on their toes. We have to fight so that others that can’t, or don’t like conflict, won’t have to.
Recently a guesthouse owner in Paarl asked, “How was your stay?” (Probably as a standard, thoughtless throwaway line). “Do you really want to know or are you just being polite?” was my reply. Shocked and immediately on the defensive. “No, I really want to know”. So I told her, about the fact that her address on Google maps takes you to a abandoned house, and the paper thin dry walls let me hear the German man in the next room snoring so loud it woke him up. So, to help him get back to sleep he and his wife decided to … “bump and grind” … at 3am! It was so bad I thought they were in bed with me.
You would have thought that the information would have been met with an explanation or an apology. You would be very mistaken! It was met with anger; incrimination and blame. I was made to believe that I was a difficult client and one-of-a-kind because hundreds of people stayed with her without complaint. It dawned on me that whenever you tell somebody the truth you automatically become the villain.
When a cellular giant asked me to sign a restraint of trade in return for dedicated training for a 24-month period, I signed in good faith only to find that they gave the training to another party and tried to hold me to the restraint. After being warned by the cellular giant themselves and friends not to pick a fight with a “bottomless pit of money corporation”; I decided (being naive, from The South, young and stupid!), that I would indeed pick a fight and stand up for what was right. Long story short – I learned a very valuable lesson about deep pockets and dirty tactics of corporate giants. My lesson learned was to pick fights carefully, but I made my point. I made some noise; I made it a little harder for the bully the next time.
My children know me by now, and in Sydney Australia I received very stale muffins at a coffee counter, so I returned immediately and asked for a refund. To my amazement I was told that it was company policy never to refund money. My children noticed a change in my demeanour as I leaned forward and whispered in an extremely firm voice, “What did you just say?” Within seconds I was standing alone. The kids ran back to mom who asked them, “where’s dad?” to which they replied (while rolling their eyes), “oh he’s getting busy with the man behind the counter”! I think it was the first time in the history of that coffee kiosk that a refund was given. Look, I had to insist that they call the owner of the group at his home on a Sunday morning, but I got my money back for the cr4p that they tried to sell me. Yes, I was probably called an arrogant South African but I struck a blow for all my country men and women who would order muffins after me. F… em!
Do you understand that when you fight (in your way, your style, and your mechanism), you make people aware of what they are doing wrong? You will be the villain; but that’s okay! We need people to pick the good fight.To stand up, step forward and speak out to the idiot who is kicking your chair in a movie, or the brain-dead Neanderthal who spends 15 minutes standing in a movie line to get tickets; and then only decides to look at what is showing and pick a movie when he gets to the front. We need to fight against the idiot in his car who turnsleftfirst so he can turn right.
We are a democracy today because people in our past and present, brave people, have chosen and are still choosing to pick a fight. They chose to stand up and fight for freedom and justice and holding the power to account. Surely, we can fight the good fight every day in small and big matters in our lives.
Do I like or enjoy conflict? No. Do I seek out conflict or do I go out of my way to pick a fight? No. But, when choosing between being treated unfairly, being lied to, being ripped off or seeing people being conned; I choose the adrenaline of fighting back.
Join “The Fight Club” against laziness; disrespectful, loud mouth people and people who smell bad. Some fights you may want to just let slide – like the idiot who is about to fall off the ladder because he didn’t anchor it properly, or the sphincter that sped past you and into the speed trap and is arrested. He will now share a cell with guys called Slash and Tiny. Sometimes the universe fights for us, and all we have to do is watch and smile.
But sometimes – we have to pick a fight!
Have a great month
IT’S A SOCIAL MEDIA THING!