I’ve been on the road for 18 days. I’ve had an afternoon off here and there, but mostly it has been a succession of interviews, with days in-between spent trying to capture the data in hand before more data arrives. What did I hear in Germany, now that I am headed for Belgium? What in Belgium now that I’m headed for France? We can’t afford to sort it out when we get home. Except for a brief visit at the end of the week, I don’t get home till the middle of June.
It’s beginning to tell. If ever I was a strategic marketing consultant, the ability of adding value by adding ideas, is now under challenge.
How to manage this exhaustion? I am willing to bet there is no literature. Most consultants have been obliged to work while exhausted but I don’t think any of us have codified techniques or strategies. For most of us it’s a private hell…hellish, anyhow. Blogging to the rescue. This is the perfect medium for sharing thoughts and, um, strategies.
There are rough guides but most of them come, interestingly, from the world of sports and inebriation.
We might manage exhaustion the way drunks manage intoxication, steering with a loose hand, navigating as if out on the lake in a motorized boat. Relax the vigilance. Do not, under any circumstances, over correct for our condition. Choose simpler targets, more obvious landmarks. Perfection is out of the question. The thing is no sudden movements. Play it as it lays.
And when things get really tricky and we have bottomed out altogether, we may resort to Mohammad Ali’s "rope a dope," the moment when we allow ourselves to go altogether. This is when you hope the respondent will have a moment of eloquence and run on. Or that the translator will spot your difficulty and step into to assume executive powers. If none of this happens, you can always fake a phone call, and retire to the hall way. You just need a moment to catch your breath. Then you’re fine. No, really.
I have been thinking hard about how translation works for ethnographic purposes, and I have some quite good notes, I think, to offer if and when I can gather my wits. I have had uniformly good translators, and I think the trick here is to use professionals who have their wits about them. But more on this in a future post.
The translators have been charming conversationalists, but part of the problem is that you haven’t talked to anyone you know (except by phone with Pam) for too long. As some of you will know, I tried to befriend a plant that came in on my room service tray. I have bad news here, I’m afraid. Melanie was confiscated today. I came back to my room and she was gone. Bastards!
I guess some of this is deeply personal. When I am really tired, I feel like a Warner Brothers’ cartoon character with a bucket stuck on my head. For me, the only real way to refresh is to do relaxation/mediation techniques. For young consultants coming up, I recommend that you take a short course, just a couple of weeks, on how to meditate and relax. It’s doesn’t have to have spiritual objectives. Mine didn’t. I will supply a link when I can find it.
I’m not much for self revelation in the blogosphere, but this has helped a lot. Thanks.