Menter: What’s your best day at work? | Notice
In 1995, the late Christopher Hitchens delivered a speech at the Nation Institute. Captured on a pre-social video by CSPAN, the title of the event was “History of the 20th Century, Britain and America”.
The grainy standard-definition video betrays the age of the event, which has now been running for 26 years. More than a quarter of a century of history has passed since this event. What I found remarkable and timely in Hitchens’ comments so many years ago at this age has nothing to do with his interpretation of history, his mockery of political figures of all persuasions, or his dry mind and always entertaining. It was a brief comparative description he gave between himself and his late father, a WWII British naval commander Eric Hitchens.
On Boxing Day in 1943, in what became known as the Battle of the North Cape, as the commander of the cruiser HMS Jamaica, Eric Hitchens ordered the final firing of many British torpedoes on the German warship Scharnhorst, a much larger capital. Nazi Kreigsmarine ship, sending it to the bottom of the North Sea. It was, according to her son’s estimate, some 52 years later, “…. better day’s work than any I’ve ever done.
Perhaps even more poignant was Eric Hitchens’ take on the emerging post-war Western world, summed up according to Christopher in his much later statement that his wartime work had been… “the only time I ever had.” really felt like i knew what i was doing. . “In the context of Christopher Hitchens’ speech tonight in 1995, this statement was intended to frame his subsequent and sweeping commentary on the most recent half-century of American and British history, that it was in many ways a puzzling time when the goal was much more difficult to discern than the focused efforts of this generation who literally saved the world from totalitarianism.
Such is an example of my desperate search for intellectually stimulating entertainment in this era dominated by social media with the lowest common denominator, that I search for quarter-century-old speeches made by classically trained thinkers long dead on my computer. YouTube thread. This got me thinking about my own work history. What has been my best working day so far? Like Christopher Hitchens, a quick inventory of my working life allowed me to conclude that nothing I have ever done comes close to the value offered to the world by helping to sink a Nazi battleship, but I have had a few good days.
Literally on the first day of my first professional job as a Budget and Management Analyst for Broward County, Florida in 1986, I saved county taxpayers about $ 2 million in property tax increases. by questioning the accuracy of the wage bill forecasts included in the project for the coming year. budget. In an era when tractor feed prints and Texas Instruments calculators provided the most technologically advanced calculation aids, a fellow analyst inadvertently mis-counted the number of weeks worked during the fiscal year to come, adding five more days to the payroll than there were. More astonishing than this mistake (because everyone makes mistakes) was the fact that the only person who questioned the outcome was the one in the room with the least experience.
Then there was that time about 17 years later, when as the new CFO of the city of Aspen, I signed the city’s amnesty agreement with the IRS, settling its long files of Outstanding bond issuance arbitrage compliance dates back to the 1980s, when I had always been that Broward County budget analyst. The little-known, let alone understood, provisions of Section 103 of the Internal Revenue Code prohibit municipal governments from earning more interest on their debt proceeds than they pay their bondholders. The city had not lifted a finger to conduct any arbitration compliance report on more than $ 130 million in bonds issued between 1986, when the law came into force, and 2002, when my tenure as CFO has started. The city had therefore exposed its taxpayers to tens of millions of penalties and fines if it had, in fact, failed to report and timely repay its arbitration winnings, which it turned out to have, and she did. We fixed this problem with the IRS for about $ 39,000. It wasn’t a bad day at the office.
Finding a purpose in our work is a very human need. For me, I learned early on that using my analytical will to challenge the status quo was most usefully applied to fixing failed systems. But it’s more complicated than that, because along the way I think I took part in a few break-ins as well as all the repairs. This is the nature of human imperfection.
Articulating his father’s remembrance of the singularity of the goal of defeating the Axis Powers, Christopher Hitchens also ably highlighted how difficult it can be to find such a goal in his professional life among the interests and competing priorities of the world around us, which often conflict with our own. This reality has never been so evident as it is today. Finding one’s unique purpose is harder than ever in a world so dominated by Orwellian social media “the thought police” seeking to guide our views, beliefs and actions in a way they approve.
If he were alive today, Christopher Hitchens wouldn’t have stood up for anything.