From now on, nobody is allowed to say:

“It’s really very simple.”

No. It’s not. I don’t care what the subject is — ethics, the cloud, implementing business strategy, system administration, or Mideast policy. If you think it’s simple, it just means you don’t know enough about the subject to understand how complicated it is.

“Do the right thing.”

Weren’t you listening? Ethics isn’t simple. What you think the right thing to do is just might not match what I think the right thing is to do.

Example: You have two employees. One has been the annual winner of the Mother Theresa act-alike contest five years running but codes so slowly the company’s business strategy will change twice before her modules pass UAT. The other writes perfect code that makes business users ecstatic as if he was taking dictation, but was runner-up in last year’s Worst Person Alive competition, in part because of his personal blog, Kicking Spaniels When Nobody’s Looking.

You have to downsize by one. Which one goes? You’re certain that’s the right thing to do? Really?

“Best practice.”

If you use this phrase you haven’t read the KJR Manifesto. Time you did.

In the meantime, please stop asking me to assess your business processes as compared to best practices.

Look. If there was such a thing as best practice, you could just buy a copy of Best Possible Process Designs and tell your process managers to organize work this way.

Take a process. Any process. On paper, sketch out how you’d organize it to maximize throughput. Now, on a different sheet of paper, sketch out how you’d organize it to minimize your capital investment and fixed operating costs.

If they look anything alike, you’re either a genius at process design or you know nothing about the nature of optimization.

There are no best practices. Only practices that fit best.

“You know what I think?”

There are only two possible answers to this question, yes and no. If I answer no, you’ll tell me, and your opinion will probably start, “It’s really very simple.”

So my safe answer is yes, which could only be honest if you’ve already explained your thinking about whatever subject it is. If you have, there are only two possibilities: I remember, or I don’t. If I do, you don’t have to explain it again. If I don’t, I obviously didn’t think it was worth remembering last time.

What makes you think repetition will make me change my mind?

“That’s how I was raised.”

Oh, so you’re blaming your parents? You are, by now, presumably an adult. Take responsibility for your opinions, please. Also your moral code and your choice of religion. If, as an adult, you continue to blindly follow whatever instructions your parents gave you as a child, I doubt you’re interesting enough to pay attention to as an adult.

You probably were a boring child too, for that matter. But I don’t blame you. That’s how you were raised.

“I’m the kind of person who …”

Stop right there, please, because I’m the kind of person who divides all of humanity into two kinds of people, those who divide the world into two kinds of people and those who don’t.

Now … what category of humanity were you saying you belong to? And please tell me, assuming I care what sort of person you are, why would you think I’d find your assertions about yourself to be credible?

If I want to know what kind of person you are, I’ll ask you for references.

Or else I’ll pay attention to what you actually do.


As in, the “pro-choice crowd.” Or the “gun rights crowd.” Or the any-position-someone-wants-to-disparage crowd.

“Crowd” is a handy way to sway an audience to your cause when you have no actual evidence or logic to present, right up there with “some” (“Some will tell you the earth is round.”) and the ever-popular “them” as ways to dehumanize those who disagree with you.

“There’s a reason we have rules.”

Yes, there is a reason for every rule we have. And wouldn’t it be lovely if everyone who blindly enforces rules kept those reasons in mind instead?

See, rules are blunt instruments. More often than not they fit the circumstances, but there are times they don’t. We call those times “exceptions.” If you don’t believe in exceptions, you’re clearly the kind of person who prefers memorization to thinking.


I actually saw this not long ago, but thankfully its use has declined since the Sopranos left the air. Consider it a placeholder for every trendy phrase writers toss into their prose on the theory that borrowed wit is still witty.

It isn’t.

Some things really are very simple.