A co-worker is planning her long-deserved month-long vacation. Knowing I’m a book warm and a travel addict (or used to be), she asks me for some travel journals to read. She was the one that I’ve dragged along with me to rock climbing gym, scuba diving, and later sky diving. Once when she was filling out another “If I died during the action, I promise I or any of my relatives won’t sue you” form, she commented, “How come I’m always filling out this kind of forms whenever I’m out with you?” I give her Michael Crichton’s Travels. “Urgh!” She winced, “I’m looking for leisure travel, not adventuresome ones!” But she takes the book and starts reading anyway.
Then she just IMed me,
She: “Guess what?”
She: “I’m reading that Crichton book. The story on his diving in Baire?”
I: “Ya. Do you like it?”
She: “He concluded at the end that subconsciously he was trying to get himself killed.”
I: “WHAT?! I don’t remember that!”
She: “Ya. He said the reason he had been trying more and more dangerous activities was because he wanted to kill himself. Remember? Once with the sharks, once on the wreck?”
I: “Oh, ya. Right. Maybe subconsciously I’ve been blocking that conclusion out of my mind.”
She: “I think he is right. We all are. Kept on trying and eventually we will get it.”
I: “hmmm¡ maybe we just want to see what we can get away with. Not really get us killed, but want to see how far we can push the envelope?”
That reminds me of a piece of news I heard on NPR yesterday. One senior manager at MCI was released from prison. He had been fresh out of business school with an MBA degree. Started climbing the management ladder at MCI. Then he found out the top-guys didn’t want to hear bad news. In order to advance himself, he started to use accounting tricks to hide loses and to report false profit. It worked and he got promoted faster and faster. Eventually he noticed that he could pocket money along the way so he did. He pocketed approximately $6 Millions of it. The NPR reporter asked him what made him do it, was it greed or the rush of getting away with it? He thought for a second and said, a little bit of both.
Why is “getting away with it” such a rush? It seems to be within each and every one of us, that rush of doing things we know we are not supposed to do and yet we could get away with it. Why are we such testy animals? Why does that impulse exist in our vein when it is directing us toward the opposite direction of safety and survival?
Or is it that impulse, in the larger scheme of things, ensuring our survival? For example: discovery of the American continent, ability to fly, space travel, or the collapse of Enron?