web analytics

Shaving the yak

There’s an episode of M*A*S*H where Hawkeye wants something*, but to get it he needs a favour from someone, & when he approaches them, he’s told he’ll have to pay off a debt they have to someone else, & then that someone else wants something else, etc, etc, etc, & in the end, Hawkeye weaves this incredibly delicate pattern of favours throughout the entire camp in order to get done the original little thing he wanted.

I used to think of that episode whenever I found myself involved in some spiralling task. Like, painting a room. I can only paint the room when I have paint, to get paint I need a friend with a car, to get that friend to drive me to the paint shop, I have to type up a bunch of letters for him, etc, etc, etc.

Henceforth, I shall refer to that spiral of irrelevant duties as ‘shaving the yak’. Seth Godin has a great explanation here.

Shaving the Yak: Another Irritating Thing I’m Generally Just Too Lazy To Bother With, If I Can Help It.


* I can’t remember what he wants, but I do remember a scene with mountains of garbage.