james_j_odonnell's picture
Classics Scholar, University Librarian, ASU; Author, Pagans
O'Donnell's Law

O'Donnell's Law of Academic Administration

If it feels good, don't do it.

Because if it feels good, it's going to be because it eases some frustration you're feeling from all the constraints and hassles of the institution; or because it really shows up so-and-so; or because it makes you feel you really do have a little authority around here after all. It won't, it won't, and you don't. Better to calm down, make sure you know all the facts, make sure you've talked to all 49 stakeholders, and sleep on it, then do the thing you have to hold your nose to do.

O'Donnell's Law of History

There are no true stories.

Story-tellers are in the iron grip of readers' expectations. Stories have beginnings, middles, ends, heroes, villains, clarity, resolution. Life has none of those things, so any story gets to be a story (especially if it's a good story) by edging away from what really happened (which we don't know in anywhere near enough detail anyway) towards what makes a good story. Historians exist to wrestle with the story temptation the way Laocoon wrestled with the snakes. But at the end of the day, to tell anybody anything, you'll probably tell a story, so then be sure to follow:

Luther's Law

Pecca fortiter.

Literally, "Sin bravely." His idea was that you're going to make a mess of things anyway, so you might as well do so boldly, confidently, with a little energy and imagination, rather than timidly, fearfully, half-heartedly.