I’m a loose cannon. Instead of ready, aim, fire, I’m more like fire, ready, aim, oops. My mouth releases my words before my brain has fully assembled a train of thought. When that happens the statements that come out of me can be incorrect, presumptuous, and messy. Sounds bad, I know. And sometimes it is. I have cost myself a professional opportunity or three by not being more strategic about my wordle. But then there’s the beauty of unfiltered truth, putting a spotlight on the elephant in the room, saying the quiet part through a megaphone, and fulfilling the dreams of people who just can’t say what they really think. I don’t mind standing up for the silent and speaking out. I’m brave. But I’m also reckless. And it would be nice to avoid humiliation. I have Loose Cannon Syndrome.
My problem is, I say what I think, but I also say what I don’t think. I can be thoughtless. My dad always said to me, think before you speak. But if I thought about everything I said before I said it, I’d be thinking all day and not saying much, which doesn’t interest me. Equivocation can be a tedious ping-pong. Then there’s always the wild card of my complete ignorance, and yet, I prefer to be spontaneous.
Spontaneity is my secret sauce. I want to surprise you by keeping it real. If I think too much before I speak, I risk being fake. Then again, sometimes I surprise myself. For example, more than once in a business meeting (many years ago) I suddenly said something that just popped into my head without a nanosecond of consideration. I once lost a job at an advertising agency for telling a gay colleague I knew he was gay. He asked, who else knows? I answered, everybody. He said, you mean they talk about me? I said, of course they talk about you. Everybody talks about everybody. Boom! He got a lawyer, sent a letter to the president of the company threatening a lawsuit for discrimination unless they let him leave the agency and take his clients with him, which he did. And thus, I was suddenly relocated to my home office without a paycheck, an event that does not appear on my resume.
Why, you might ask, why would I do such a stupid thing as discuss a hot-potato topic like gender preference with a colleague? Because I was angry. He pissed me off with his homophobic slurs about a particular artist in Boston who was a friend of mine. In a defensive moment my retort was a hand grenade between us, wounding mainly me. Not clever. But honest, sincere, loyal, and brave. Rash, as my mother would say. Truth blurted. Blurter unemployed.
It’s only one example, but it’s a fair illustration. His question about who else knows should have gone unanswered. But I shot my mouth off and implicated others without a thought. Now being old with time on my hands, I’ve made a list of a dozen of these lifetime bloopers that put me on a different path without a plan because I was blunt when I could have been sharp.
Filtering is not my strength. Weighing risk before I speak and editing my sentences for strategic advantage can easily warp my truth into white lies. Filtering is too close to sugar coating, side-stepping, misrepresenting, and sublimating the truth. And truth is my priority. Truth is clumsy. It can be a wrecking ball. There’s always the risk that I’m incorrect, misinformed, or misguided. Mistakes will be made. That’s Loose Cannon Syndrome. But for me it’s worth it. Fire away.