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Gavin Sharples
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I am going to pick a fight

19 July 2012, 14:37

People always talk about a particular scene in Brave Heart, the movie, when William Wallace (Mel Gibson) is delivering a speech to his troops just before a battle with the British. I have always wondered how he was able to address thousands of men on horseback without any microphone, speakers, PowerPoint or audiovisual crew behind a tree somewhere. Hey, I speak for a living and I can tell you that that was an amazing feat. 

For me this is not the best moment of the movie. At some point William Wallace gathers his sword and gear and is asked by someone where he's going, to which he replies "I'm going to pick a fight!" I have always wondered why this one line excited me so much.  To be honest he really didn't say that, he was asked "wir ah yooo gooin?” to which he replied "I’m gooin ta puck u fooit!” Ah, bless the Scots.

Last week I was having lunch with the inventor of Scrabble. In other words one of those corporate types, who uses extremely big and very corporate sounding words all the time, but he’s harmless and besides he was paying for lunch! I was explaining to him how much I enjoyed going into companies in short bursts. For me I loved going into an organisation, pointing out what was not working and suggesting how to fix it. I was never cut out to be a coach. Get in, make some noise, get people thinking and then leave. He looked at me and said, "That’s what you do best, you are an agitator!" Now I have been called many things in my life but never an agitator. It was exciting. It was corporate, sexy talk. It had a name. I knew there was a reason for people studying an MBA - to give ordinary things fancy names. I have always thought of myself as being a troublemaker, a rebel, a maverick but never an agitator. I even thought about the movie - The Agitator -and once Arnold is finished messing with the maid, he could play me in the movie.

And then it all fell into place. The one thing that I do, have done and enjoy doing the most is picking a fight. Whenever the customer service is poor I am the first person to stand up and fight for what is right. Sometimes to the total embarrassment of my children but I just can’t help myself. I just have to stand up for what is right. If you pay for something you must get what you pay for it is only right. In fact in this sub-standard, slap dash, short cut, do little, less or nothing, care less, below average world we live in today if you don't fight for your rights, service, delivery and insist that people keep their promises you won’t last a day.

We need freedom fighters that fight the good fight. Freedom from mediocrity, con artists, lazy people, stupid people, annoying people, people who stand at the top of escalators deciding which direction to walk in and causing the 30 people behind them to crap in their pants as they clamour over each other to disembark around him.   

We need people to demand that the coffee is hot, and that the meal looks like the picture in the menu (if you eat at places that have a picture of the food on the menu you may want to try a classy restaurant once in awhile, Wimpy on a first date, you're not going to get lucky. If she's from the south and you add chips to her order you may be in with a shout but it's still iffy).

Many people believe that fighting for what is right has to be a hostile situation. It is true that most of these situations are not pleasant but we can disagree without being disagreeable. When returning the product because it doesn't work, tastes bad or functions incorrectly it doesn't necessarily have to be a hostile encounter. But returning it, sending it back and fighting the fight is a must as it is the only way that people understand that they have to deliver what they promise. They have to know they are faced with a street fighter who’ll keep them on their toes. We have to fight so that others that can’t or don’t like conflict won’t have to.

So when the cellular giant asked me to sign a restraint of trade in return for dedicated training for a 24 month period. I signed in good faith only to find that they gave the training to another party and tried to hold me to the restraint. After being warned by the cellular giant themselves and friends not to pick a fight with the bottomless pit of money corporation I decided (being naive, from the South, young and stupid) that I would indeed pick a fight and stand up for what was right. Long story short, I learned a very valuable lesson about the deep pockets and dirty tactics of a corporate giant. My lesson learnt was to pick your fights carefully but I made my point, I made some noise, I made it a little harder for the bully the next time.

My children know me by now, and in Sydney Australia on receiving very stale muffins I returned immediately and asked for a refund. To my amazement I was told that it was company policy never to refund money. My children noticed a change in my demure as I leaned forward and whispered in an extremely firm voice, "What did you just say?" Within seconds I was standing alone. The kids ran back to mom who asked them, "Where is your dad?" To which they replied rolling their eyes "oh he's just getting busy with the man behind the counter, again!” I think it was the first time in the history of that coffee kiosk that a refund was given. Look, I had to insist that they call the owner of the group on a Sunday morning at his home but I got my money back for the crap that they tried to sell me. Yes I was probably called an arrogant South African but I struck a blow for all my country men who would order muffins after me. F... em!

Do you understand that when you fight (in your way, your style, and your mechanism) you make people aware of what they are doing wrong?  The next time the waiter will check to see if the plate does indeed have rice instead of chips. The corporation will think twice about taking on the little guy. We need people to fight the good fight. To stand up, step forward and speak out to the idiot who is kicking your chair in a movie, or the brain-dead Neanderthal who spends 15 minutes standing in a line in front of you to get movie tickets and then only decide to look at what is showing and pick a movie when he gets to the counter. We need to fight against the idiot in his car who turns a little to the left when he is turning right.

We are to a certain extent a democracy today because people in our history chose to pick a fight. They chose to fight, (black, white, Indian men and women) against racial inequality and injustice. They chose to stand up and fight for freedom and justice. Surely we can fight the good fight every day in small and big matters in our lives.

Join the Fight Club against laziness, disrespected, loud mouth people and people who smell badly. Fight against the manager who thinks he's God's gift or the employee who thinks the world owes him a favour. Some fights you may want to just let slide. The idiot who is about to fall off the ladder because he didn't anchor it properly, or the sphincter that sped past you and into the speed trap and is arrested and has to share a cell with guys called Trigger and Tiny. Sometimes the universe fights for us and all we have to do is watch and smile. But sometimes we have to pick a fight!

Gavin Sharples

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