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Atlas Shrugs/Guam Capsizes: Oh, The Places You'll Go... The People You'll See...

I've got two sons, and every now and then, I think about what I'd like them to become related to their professional identities... You know, skills they'll need to be good at regardless of the field they choose.  

I'm adding a skill to that profile today: The ability to hear raw stupidity, look it in the face and keep a straight, emotionless game/poker face.  

Here's an example of where they'll need that skill in workplace conversations.  From CBS News:

"Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) is raising some eyebrows with a comment he made about the U.S. territory of Guam during a House Armed Services Committee hearing last Thursday.  In a discussion regarding a planned military buildup on the Pacific island, Johnson expressed some concerns about the plans to Adm. Robert Willard, head of the U.S. Pacific fleet.

 "My fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize," Johnson said. Willard paused and replied, "We don't anticipate that."

Here's what's incredible about this conversation.  Willard, obviously a skilled representative for the Armed Forces, hears the gibberish and doesn't flinch.  He keeps a straight face through the entire thing and basically treats it all like it's a real conversation.

Career Lesson:  There's a term for professionals who can't control their emotions and get through conversations when they hear raw stupidity - they're called "enlisted men" and "sergeants"

Nothing wrong with being either.  But if you want to lead, the poker face is a key skill you must acquire.  Click through to see the video of Willard's reaction to the capsize comment.  

God help the people of Guam.  Their island is unstable.  It could tip.


Shaun Emerson


Great life lesson for the kids. It's one of the many subtle abilities I hope my kids learn as they grow older.

Sue Meisinger

I loved this clip; it reminded me of a lesson I learned while a poltical appointee at the DOL many years ago. I was testifying once more before a Congressional panel, and a member of Congress kept asking the same question, and I kept answering it in different ways to try to get through to him.

Finally it hit me: This man was dumb as a box of rocks! And while he deserved respect as a member of Congress -- after all, he did get elected -- from that point forward I was never intimidated when I had to testify. He really gave me a gift!


Seth McColley

For a moment there I think Admiral Willard was thinking he might be on candid camera. I thought I caught a slight grin as he answered the question, but then he quickly used the old, "rub my eye with my finger" technique to keep from cracking up.

Seriously though, if we could just get the fine folks of Guam to dedicate themselves to eating a "balanced" diet and ensuring that there are no sudden movements, we should be able to keep the island stable.


Michael Haberman SPHR

Just a hint... you want to make sure you don't live in Hank's district.

Chris Ferdinandi - Renegade  HR

Actually, I caught a VERY slight smirk Adm. Robert Willard. Almost imperceptible, but I don't know how he didn't just start laughing in that guy's face!


I did detect a slight smirk on the Admiral's face but he handled it well. While I think the Rep. Johnson's understanding of this is questionable he does deserve the respect he was given. Kris this is a skill that we all should make sure our children have, so I will be forwarding this link to my 23 year old sun who recently got his BS/ME; so he may add this ability to his inventory of skills.

Chris Jones

Michael H.

I live in Atlanta in, the newly reelected, Rep. Johnson's district. I have heard this gaffe before. Hopefully, he meant it to make a point and not literally. It reminds me of the quote from years ago that South Carlina would sink/tip over if their Senator brought anymore military bases to the State.

Danny Ryan

Being recently removed from college, this situation certainly speaks to the reason why students are now taught to communicate (whether in writing, speech, etc.) at a second grade level. No matter the intelligence of a person, you must give a certain level of respect to others. This is a perfect example of that point.

Todd Raphael

Was that a Saturday Night Live skit, or was that real? Reminds me of when the White House press secretary (assistant to the president) didn't know what the Cuban Missile Crisis was. Different political parties, both embarrassing.

Marty Card

You do realize that your offhand comment "...Career Lesson: There's a term for professionals who can't control their emotions and get through conversations when they hear raw stupidity - they're called "enlisted men" and "sergeants"... is totally wrong. As a prior "enlisted man" and "sergeant," I often had to control my emotions and get through conversations when I heard "raw stupidity," quite often from officers.

But, hey, thanks for playing!

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