Stupid is not a nice word. However, after reading about an Olympic athlete who refused to shake hands with a competitor and was sent home for poor sportsmanship, and some intriguing new information about the robbery in Rio, I was transported back to January 2, 2016 when sports analyst Trevor Matich shared his theory on the Rule of Stupids. Matich said, “Don’t do stupid things, in stupid places, at stupid times, around stupid people.” Consider the number of careers, companies and relationships that might have been saved by the Rule of Stupids!
We all know people who have violated the Rule of Stupids, including politicians, athletes, celebrities, executives, friends, and of course, the person staring back at you in the mirror. When broken, the goal is to minimize the magnitude and severity of the case so that the consequences (there are ALWAYS consequences) are minimized.
Here’s the question: Is the Rule of Stupids an immutable law of the universe, like gravity? Let us conduct a scientific review.
Case 1: Maureen Monte (that would be me)
The Stupid Thing: I started violating the Rule of Stupids at a young age when I convinced my close friend, Bobby Randall, to make good use of a fire exit door that was conveniently located in my 8th grade classroom. It led directly to the outside world. The door was required because there were no windows in any of the classrooms (some sort of weird social experiment – the school was brand new!) We went on the lam, escaping from English class while Mr. Ganfield was out in the hall. The plan was to astonish Mr. Ganfield first by our absence and then by circling around the exterior of the school and eventually popping back in on him from the hallway, shouting, “Surprise!” I assured Bobby that, “it would be hilarious!” (I realize now that my Ideation + Strategic strengths had taken a stupid pill.)
The Stupid Place: Leaving the building was stupid because in order to get back to that particular classroom we had to march unnoticed past the Principal’s Office. I’d missed that important fact when forging my scheme.
The Stupid Time: Dead of winter during a hellacious Michigan snow storm. The sun wasn’t even up, and we were in drifts up to our knees. We had no coats or boots. We trudged through the dark frigid air, shivering, stomping and swearing.
The Stupid People: Bobby Randall is one of the nicest and most charming people I ever knew (I suspect he has Woo). I was stupid for convincing him to come with me. He was stupid for agreeing. We were stupid together, which always creates a warm and lasting bond between pals.
The Consequences: Once we realized that we’d never make it past the Principal’s office, we decided to try re-entering though the fire door before Mr. Ganfield returned. He might notice a few flakes here and there, and we might appear a bit disheveled, but other than that, hey, no harm, no foul. We shivered, stomped and swore our way back. I pounded on the door, shouting, “Hey, let us in!” The door cracked open just enough for Mr. Ganfield to peer out and shoot lightning bolts at me with his steely, blue-eyed glare. He said, “You got yourselves out there. You get yourselves back in.” And he didn’t mean through that door. We shivered, stomped, and swore our way back to the front entrance and attempted to stroll nonchalantly past the Principal’s office. We were nabbed.
Decision: Strong scientific proof of the Rule of Stupids.
Case 2: Martha Stewart
The Stupid Thing: Martha Stewart lied about a stock sale. She had insider information and used it to her financial advantage to avoid a loss of $45,673. Forbes had just estimated her worth at $700,000,000. A loss of $45,673 would comprise exactly 0.0065% of her net worth. That equaled 65 cents for every $10,000 she owned.
The Stupid Place: District Attorney’s office
The Stupid Time: “I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth…” Lying while under oath is stupid timing.
The Stupid People: FBI agents (they are not stupid; it’s stupid to lie to them.)
The Consequences: Ms Stewart steps down as CEO/Chairman of her own company, is indicted and convicted of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and securities fraud. Spends time at Camp Cupcake (a country club kind of federal prison), house arrest, and probation. The impact on her reputation? Well, you decide.
Decision: Compelling scientific proof for the Rule of Stupids.
Case 3: Chris Sale
The Stupid Thing: A few weeks ago, the All-Star pitcher for the Chicago White Sox objected to wearing a throwback jersey because he feared the uncomfortable collar would hinder his performance. When his request to don a different jersey was denied, Chris Sale experienced a Jekyll and Hyde moment and cut up ALL the jerseys in the locker room with a knife.
The Stupid Place: Slicing up the jerseys in the locker room was destruction of team property. He clearly committed this act with forethought and malice because he waited until he was alone. He also demonstrated a lack of respect for the team, coaches, and executives.
The Stupid Time: A few hours before he was scheduled to pitch against the Detroit Tigers. They were relying on him to help them win.
The Stupid People: Sale’s teammates were warming up out on the field. He and his out-of-control ego committed the heinous act.
The Consequences: The coach scratched him from the game and sent him home for a non-physical “club house incident.” He was fined nearly $300,000 (lost wages from a 5 game suspension plus the cost of the jerseys). The big loss for the team was his absence on the mound. The impact on his reputation… well, it is professional sports. He is still viewed as desirable because of his dominance in the game. But as Sale ages, and he will, his unwillingness to put the team first and lack of judgment may rise in importance. Will he be remembered for the Great Jersey Massacre of 2016 or his immense pitching talent? Time will tell. I’m tempted to go to a Detroit/White Sox game just so I can sit right near the White Sox dugout wearing a home-made jersey, sliced into tatters, with his name and number written on it. (Note: Is that violating the Rule of Stupids? What if Chris Sale sees me?)
Decision: Irrefutable scientific proof of the Rule of Stupids.
Of course, there are thousands of other examples, but these three provide scientific validation. I invite you to consider the Rule of Stupids as a decision making tool. If you believe this is an instrument worth sharing with others, by all means do so.
By the way, let’s not be confused. My 8th grade escapade was not the dumbest thing I’ve ever done. It was the first of many, and I don’t even want to go there.
You are welcome to share your own examples in the comments section (wink!)
Maureen (Ideation | Strategic | Learner | Achiever | Individualization)