It is what it is, but consider what it could be.

loraxThree years ago, I took on the job of turning around an underperforming team. That’s the nice way of saying it. The not-nice way of saying it is that they were pretty much a clusterf**k bunch in need of a thorough house-cleaning and reboot. Friday was my last official day on the job. I have a couple of loose ends to tie up, but on Monday I move on to a new job, where I will be doing pretty much the same thing with a different team. This seems to have become my thing.

In the job that I’m wrapping up, I came across a phrase that irked me.

It is what it is.

The phrase irked me because it indicated give-up, and it was a bit of a mantra among the team. In their defense, their situation was crappy, at least from their perspective. They were mostly good people. Some of them demonstrated skill and commitment. Some of them lacked skill or commitment and underperformed. Some of them were coachable and developed into solid performers. Some realized they were unsuited to their role and chose to move on. A couple were toxic and got shown the door.

One or two of the most talented had been big fans of “it is what it is.”

I’m happy to say not anymore they’re not.


On Friday, I said goodbye to those talented people who were there at the beginning, who demonstrated skill and commitment throughout, and who grew into leaders. They now have high standards, high goals, high expectations. They no longer say it is what it is. They have a vision for what can be, and they take steps to realize it. They don’t tolerate lack of commitment or toxic attitudes.

I’m proud of them. I wish I could continue to work with them. But they will be just fine without me. Which is why I’m moving on.

If we are willing to accept that “it is what it is,” then that’s the way things are going to be. It only takes one person to decide that things can be different. It may be a long, hard slog. But it’s worth it.

Inspired by Maggie Wilson’s That’s Crazy.

“I’m not telling you…” quote: Art Williams

15 thoughts on “It is what it is, but consider what it could be.

  1. “I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy; I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it” resonates with me – for myself, and others who take on the “it is what it is” philosophy around me. As a teacher for 12 years, it would have been a great phrase to use in the classroom (like, maybe, 15 times a day?). Great post, Walt. Thx.


  2. Pingback: The Good Doctor | waltbox

Here's where you can type a thing:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s