In Search of Postal Buddy – the Power of the Negative Story

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by: John Caddell

Once at EDS, way back when, I worked on a really big proposal. It was one of those that got you to Hawaii if you were successful, and we were, and so I spent a memorable week in Maui.

When we were working on the proposal, my boss would tell us, "Be careful. We don’t want this to end up like Postal Buddy." He said it over and over again, though I had to admit I didn’t really know what Postal Buddy was. It apparently was a deal in which EDS had taken on a bunch of risk that ended up badly. That much I knew.

Postal Buddy stuck in my brain all these years. Finally, in an effort to satisfy my curiosity, I called my old boss a few months ago. My goal was to get him to tell me the Postal Buddy story once and for all. "Oh, yeah," he said when I called him. "Postal Buddy….hmm… I remember the name but can’t remember the story at all."

I was dumbfounded. Postal Buddy had become a fossil, the name the only remnant of the full experience (which, for people dealing with its aftermath, must have been excruciating). But it still retained its potency.

Many times since I heard the story, even though I don’t know a single detail, when confronted with a risky scenario, I would think to myself, "Don’t do a Postal Buddy here," and I would take a second, or third, look before making a decision.

So, the lesson: a story, even shorn of all its ornamentation, only a title and a memory, still carries emotion and resonance.

Postscript: I used a tool with better recall than me or my old boss, Google, to research Postal Buddy. There’s nothing about the EDS experience, but you can find the overall story here (go to page 3).

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